Anda di halaman 1dari 311


Translated by
lain Hamilton Grant
Indiana University Press
Bloomington and Indianapolis
First published in the USA, 19'3, by Indiana University Press,
Bloomington, Indiana
First published in France, 1974, by
Les Editions De Milluit, Paris
as EWtlOlIlic LibidinalI'
1974 by Les Editions de Minuit
English translation 1993 The Athlone Press
Originating publisher of the English edition:
The Athlone Press, London
Publisher's Note
The publishers wish to record their thanks to the French Ministry of
Culture for a grant towards the cost of translation.
AI! rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical. including photocopying and recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publisher. The Association of American University
Presses' Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this
Manufactured in Great Britain
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lyotard, Jean Francois.
[Economic libidinale. English]
Libidinal economy / Jean-Francois Lyotard : translated by lain Hamilton
p. cm. -(Theories of contemporary culture)
Translation of: L'economie Iibidinale.
ISBN 0-253-33614-7 (cl.) -- ISBN 0-253-20728-2 (pbk.)
1. Sex (Psychology) 2. Psychoanalysis-Social aspects.
3. Economics-Psychological aspects. I. Title.
BF692.L9613 1993
2 3 4 5 6 04 03 02 00 99
Who knows not how to hide, knows not how to love.
Translator's Preface
Illtroduction by l ain Hamilt on G rant
A Shameless I mm odest P rov ocati on
Lyotard's Ly otards
One or Seve ral L y otards?
Openings/Surr oundings
T he Libidinal Ec on omics of C ritical Phil os ophy
Critique and C risis
Phantasy I sland: Back t o Kant
I : The Great Ephemeral Skin
Opening the Libidinal Su rface
Pagan Theat rics
Turning of the Ba r
Duplicity of Signs
Deducti on of the V olumin ous B ody
Duplicity of the Tw o Pulsi onal P rinci ples
The Laby rinth, the C ry
I I : The Tensor
S emi otic Sign
Dissi mulati on
I ntensity, the Name
' Us e Me'
Simulac rum and Phantasm
Syntax as Skin
V 111
III: The Desire Named Marx 95
Libidinal Marx 95
There Is No Subversive Region 103
Every Political Economy Is Libidinal 108
Every Political Economy Is Libidinal (contd) 114
There Are No Primitive Societies 122
Inorganic Body 127
Edwarda and Little Girl Marx 135
Force 143
IV: Trade
Nicomachean Erotics 155
Lydian Eulogy 165
Institutive Prostitution 173
Outlet Payment 181
War of Silver, Currency of Death: Mercantilist Politics 188
V: Capital 201
Coitus Reservatus 201
The Concentratory Zero 210
Nihilist Theory of the Zero of Credit 215
The Reproductive Use of Credit Money 223
The Speculative Use of Credit Money: 1921 227
The Speculative Use of Credit Money: 1929 233
VI: Economy oj This Writing 243
Economy of the Figurative and the Abstract 243
The Theoretical as Libidinal 246
Bodies, Texts: Conductors 254
Notes 263
Index 273
Translator's Preace
Lyotard's Long SentCllces
The role of style in a text such as this immediately provides the
translator with the problem of whether (a) to organize the material
into a stylistically insensitive but comprehensible English, or (b) to
attempt in vain to convey the rhythms and distortions of the
original. Insofar as such a choice is possible, I have chosen the latter
approach. For this reason, certain of Lyotard's most distinctive
tempo-rhythmic structures pose certain problems for the reader,
notably: a sentence will become a paragraph, with precious little
pUllctuation, to be brought to a sudden halt by a short burst of
extreme relief The momentum built up by such constructions is
lost if the long sentence is broken down into shorter ones, and
perhaps more especially for this book than others, momentum, the
rapid pressure of change, is crucial.
In recent years the 'question of style' has been posed, each new
of e ring displacing the last of 'last year's lines'. Gilles Deleuzel
writes of Nietzsche that, 'his masterful siege of the language
permits him to transmit something uncodifable: the notion of style
as politics'. Lyotard partially confrms this approach in the present
text, when he writes that 'our politics is of fight ... like our style'.
further morc, in one of the W cHeck Library Lectures of 1986,
Lyotard writes of Libidinal Economy: 'the dominant position given to
writing or style could indicate nothing other than how impossible
any argumentation, any debate over the so-called contents was. '2
But there is perhaps a further piece of evidence that may be drawn
on to support such a wicked attempt at transmission as this. Lyotard
has often cited Diderot's Le Neveu de Rameau as a text witnessing a
vertiginous despair similar to some of the affects animating
Libidinal Economy. These arc chiefy manifest when Diderot's
narrative gently relays the Nephew's 'colourful opinions' only to
collapse under the general strain of attempting the expression of the
Nephew's attempts at playing 'imaginary symphonies', feigning the
entire corps of instruments and musicians.3 It is at precisely these
points of narrative breakdown (cata-hexes) that Lyotard's ver
tiginous text is articulated by the accelerating aleatory sweep of the
tensor sign, sketching the very ephemerality of its ungraspable
fight . Lyotard's sentences may be l ong, but they are intensive rather
than extensive.
Translator's Notes
Insertions of translator's remarks have been kept to a minimum, but
when they do occur they are indicated by an asterisk, located at the
foot of the page and annotated 'tn'. The superscripted numbers in
the text refer to the notes which are found at the end of the text .
I should like to thank Karin Littau and David Wood of the
University of Warwick for their generous help at many stages of
the production of this translation.
lain Hamilton Grant
1 Gilles Deleuze, 'Nomad Thoucht', in D. B. Allison (cd), The New Nietzsche
(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), p.143.
2 Jean-Franois Lyotard, Peregrinations: Law, Form, Evet (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1988), p.13.
3 Denis Diderot, Rameau's Nephew, tr. Leonard Tancock (Harmo
ndsworth: Penguin, 1966).
Concentrat/-ion/ary/-ed: LyotJrd's neologism cirwlIl'cYsion
docs not lend itself to satisflctory transliteration into English.
Several defnitions arc scattered throughout the text - 'a furiolls
t()rce of concentration', 'annulatory perversion', and so forth -
all of which basically describe the centripetal movement of
consolidation, or, more accurately, 'condensation'. In one essay
in De Dispositif jilllsiollCls, Lyotard call he seen groping towards
this terIll when he writes: 'What is importallt is rather thejit llllcs
of (iYCIIIIIScriptiol1: the stable investment of energy.' All these
aspects are covered by 'concentration'. (Sec point 15, C(lI/(f tra
tory 7('10).
2 Dispositif although this term is conventionally rendered as 'set
up', 'apparatus' and the like, this gives a somewhat banal
Illechanistic picture of Lyotard's ctrts. In Des Dispositi
plI/si{mels, we fnd the following passage: 'The positivity of these
investments must be affrmed, rather than the disparity and
exclusion they produce - the positivity rather than the dis- of
"dispositif' . . . It is the production of new libidinal operators
that is positive.' The positifis also a positing, an investmlt, the
'dispositif a dlspos\tlOn to invest, a cathexis. As such, the
'dispositif is subject to economic movements and displace
ments, an aspect which the retention of the French term, by
combining the dis-place with the dis-pose, movement with
expenditure, helps to convey.
3 Incompossibility: 'compossibility' is a term used by Leibniz to
indicate the relations between 'possible worlds'; many worlds are
possible, but not possible together, not compossihle. It is left to
God, therefore, to create the 'best of all possible worlds', which,
since He is perfect, He cannot hil to do. Leibniz's defnition of
this perfection is profoundly economic: the less the expenditure
the greater the perfection - God being perfect, His purse is never
stretched. Lyotard's usc of 'incompossibility', then, highlights
Glossary Xl
not only, as is pointed out in the section entitled 'Turning of the
Bar' (pp.OOO), a logical violation, but an expensive and meta
morphic economics.
4 Investment: I have translated invcstissement (the French transla
tion of Freud's Besetzung) as 'investment' rather than 'cathexis'
Games Strachey's translation of the same term for the Standard
Edition) because the French is indifferently employed in libidinal
and political economics, whereas Strachey's English term
remains classical-libidinal .
5 Jouissance: French retained throughout, except where it is
employed in a context where 'enoyment' would serve better to
indicate the political-legal sense of the word, i. e. the 'enjoyment
of rights' or of property or wealth. For the verb Jouir and the
adjective jouissil- lc I have used 'enjoy' and 'enjoyable', with the
French following in brackets.
6 Pouvoir/Impouvoir: power and powerlessness. See point 8,
7 Pulsion-al: pulsion is the French term for Freud's Trieb, which
the Standard Editiol translates as 'instinct', a move now widely
condemned as inadequate, primarily because the same English
word is used to translate both Trieb and Instinkt. The current
term is 'drive', which I have sometimes used for reasons of
euphony (death-pul sion reads horribly). To transl iterate the
French pulsion, however, seems preferable since it confers a les s
mechanistically dominated energetics than does 'drive'. These
arc the only two options used throughout the present text.
8 Puissance/Impuissance: Lyotard makes much of the distinc
tion between (the gendered difrence between) la pllissallce and
Ie pouvoir throughout this work. Roughly, this can be rendered as
the difference between 'force' and 'power', which are the main
options used throughout the translation. Both words have,
however, a range of uses which often blur the distinction: either
word can be employed to designate 'power' (Nietzsche's Wille
zur Macht (the Will-to-Power) is translated into French under the
title La Volonte de puissance); the former has a use indicating
'potential', the latter 'capacity'; the former 'strength', the latter
'ability', and so on. Despite possible confusion arising over
another resultantly blurred distinction between the French force
(which I have also translated as 'force') and its English counter
part, I deem this preferable to a confusion between puissance and
Xli Lihidinal Economy
the 'potentiality' Lyotard is keen to attack as the dawn of thought
and other nihilistic products. I have, to guide the reader, inserted
the French term in brackets following the word 'force'.
Similarly, I have translated impouvoir as 'powerlessness' and
impuissafl(e as 'impotence'.
The jOI/OUlillg also merit a short gloss ,(ivm tize weight ald importance
a[(orded to them in Libidinal Economy.
9 The Libidinal Band/Skin: the band, which has, most impor
tantly, neither an inside nor an outside, is most easily comparable
to what Freud called the primary processes of the pulsions 'of
the psychical apparatus, and could be considered as a sort of
analogical presentation of difference independent of the (sec
ondary) orders of re-presentation in which identity, signifcation
and reference are determined. Although the libidinal band
allows Lyotard to show what is neces sarily excluded by repres
entational thinking, it is not to be considered to be 'descriptively'
true (since the model would then collapse back into re-presenta
tion) but as more forceful and more interesting and more
inventive than previous totalizations of 'the real'. As a kind of
persuasive fction, the various descriptions of the band wish,
nevertheless, to account for the closures and exclusions inherent
to re-presentational thinking and suggest a 'pagan' manner of
affrming the differences and singularities that run through the
libidinal band in an aleatory and indeterminate fashion.
10 The Bar: if we imagine the libidinal band as having one surface,
white-hot, labyrinthine and aleatory, then the bar is to be seen as
the 'operator of disintensifcation' which, 1 slowmg down,
allows the displaceability and non-identity of the drives /pulsions
and intensities to be arrested and given a designation and
signifcation. It is through procedures of exclusion (notably
negation and exteriorization) that the bar gives birth to the
conceptual process, twisting the band into what Lyotard cal l s the
theatrical 'volume'. Dividing up what takes place on the band
into a 'this' and a 'not-this', the bar, as it cools down, 'accounts
for' the series of conceptual frontiers which distinguish the ideal
and the real, the authentic and the alienated, the useful and the
exchangeable, the normal and the perverse, etc. It should be
noted that, for Lyotard, the bar and the band are nevertheless one
and the same. When the bar rotates in a furious aleatory fashion,
Glossary X111
we h ave some thi ng like the libidi nal b and; whe n the b ar sl ow s
d ow n, we h ave some t hi ng like t he t he atric al v olu me . Why t he
b ar sl ow s d ow n i s a ques t i on peculi ar t o repre se ntat i onal
t hi nki ng, i tself an effec t of t he c ooli ng b ar.
11 The Great Zero: the name Ly otard give s to t he i nstance
i nf ormi ng a part icul ar bu t i nsis t e nt dispositij on t he libidin al
b and . Wi t h the di si nt e nsifc at i on of t he b ar, t he libidi nal b and i s
f olded b ack i nto a t he at ric al v olume which h as an i nside and an
ou tside (appe arance/e sse nce, sig ns/ t he sig nifed). The i nside i s
t he n ul t i mat ely c onside red i n t e rms of wh at i s g oi ng on on the
ou tside . One of t he most i mportant fgu rat i ons of the ou tside i s
the g re at Ze ro which se rve s as a ge ne ral t e rm to c ove r t he
Pl atonic w orld of f orms, G od, t he au t he nt ic mode of produc
ti on, t he ph allus, e t c . All t he se i ns tance s - and de s pi t e t hei r
diffe re nce s - are effec ts of t he sl owi ng d own of t he b ar,
refe rri ng t he i nt e nsi t ie s ru nni ng t h rough t h e b and to an
el sewhe re which t hey appe ar t o l ack once they h ave b ee n
c onf ned to t he i nt e ri ori t y of a v olume . The g re at Ze ro i s thus an
e mpt y ce nt re which reduce s t he prese nt c om plexi ty of w hat
h appe ns i nstantane ou sly on t he b and to a ' ch ambe r of pre sence
and ab se nce'. I n hi s de sc ri pt i on of t he g re at Ze ro Ly otard wi shes
to sh owth at all the orie s of sig ni fc at i on are fu nd ame ntally
' nihili st ic' .
12 Intensities: part ly f oll owi ng F reud's desc ri pti on of t he pri mary
proce sses of t he u nc onsci ous, Ly otard c onside r s i nte nsi t ie s as
u nb ou nd exci tat i ons of f orce which are ch aract eri zed by t hei r
di spl ace abili t y, thei r i nstantanei t y and t hei r re si s tance to the
te mporal sy nt hese s of me mory . Ly otard radic ali ze s,h oweve r,
F reud's u nde rstandi ng of psychic i nt e nsity, si nce libidi nal i nt e n
si t ie s c annot be willed ( eve n by t he u nc onsci ou s) and de sc ribe the
f orce s ru nni ng t h rough t he b and as a wh ole (and not jus t a s o
c alled part of i t ) . I t i s t h rough an org ani zi ng a nd regul atory
ce ntral i ns tance ( e . g . t he g re at Ze ro) t h at t he singul ari t y of an
i nt e nsi t y bec ome s a c ommu nic able and exch ange able sig n. I f
such a ce ntre we ake ns i nt e nsi t ie s i n t his m an ne r, it i s neve rt heless
i tself a part icul ar arrange me nt of libidi nal f orce: t hi s will be
i mportant i n Ly otard's de sc ri pt i on of c api tal.
13 The Tensor: i t i s i n his de sc ri pt i on of t he tenso r t h at Ly otard
c omb ats most di rec t ly t he nihilis m he takes to b e i nhe re nt i n all
se mi ot ic s (struc t u rali s m i n part icul ar) . Sig ns f orm part of the
t heat r i cal dispositiJ sub ordinating intensities ( a cti ons or em o
ti ons, f or example) t o a la ck, whethe r this la ck be conside red in
te rms of a signifi ed or an othe r signifi e r t o whi ch a sign refe r s in
orde r t o have a semi oti c value. The sign refe rs, or defe rs itself,
t o an elsewhe r e, constitutively repla cing s omething ( absent) f or
s ome one . Ly ota rd's wish t o reint rodu ce int o the sign a tensi on
t hat p revents it f rom having eithe r a unita ry designati on,
meaning or cal culable se ries ofsu ch designati ons or meanings
( p olysemia) is an attempt t o bl ock this m ovement of refe rral and
remain as faithful as p ossible t o the in comp ossible intensities
inf orming and ex ceeding the sign . The tens or sign is a des crip
ti on of this attempt . The latte r is n ot, the ref ore, a m ove
' bey ond' re -p resentati on, the creati on of an elsewhere outside
t he sign . F or the idea of the tens or w ould then simply repeat the
rules of the dispositif whi ch organizes the p ossibility of signs in
t he f rst place. Signs a rc also tens ors, ' indiss ociably singula r,vain
intensities in fl ight': signs dissimulate tens ors .
14 The Great Ephemeral Skin: this is in many ways the m ost
pr ov ocative fgu re ill Libidinal EcoNoInY. I t highlights the dis rup
tive p otential of the fgu re, a con cer whi ch occupied Ly ota rd
f rom Dis[urs, Jure th rough his tw o 1973 colle cti ons of essays,
Derive a partir de Marx et Freud and Des Dispositis pulsionels, t o the
present text. F reud's elab orati on of the ' d ream-w ork' (cf The
Interpretation of Dreams) p rovides Ly ota rd with an a rti culati on of
the connivan ce of the fgu ral and the libidinal: the d ream-w ork
(condensati on, displa cement, se conda ry revisi on and conside ra
ti ons of rep resentability) dist orts fgu ral mate rials whi ch a re
const i t u t i onally m ore plas t i c, or s o F reud a rgues, than ideati onal
mate rials ( w ords, signs and ideas) . I n Discours, fgure, Ly ota rd
draws out the impli cati ons of the fgu ral un cons ci ous' plasti c
invasi on int o the realm of the con ceptual cons ci ous, the result of
whi ch invasi on is n ot me rely t o dem onst rate the inevitable
confusi on of the tw o realms, but t o highlight diffe ren ce in thei r
respe ctive organizati ons. Whe reas the con ce ptual reli cs on rigid
opp ositi on, the fgu ral w orks diffe ren ces: con ce pts, in othe r
w ords, utilize negati on ( the ' this' and the ' n ot -this' in the
language of Libidinal Economy), is olating unit ( ie)s as opp osed
entities, whe reas fgu ral diffe ren ce, like the un cons ci ous wh ose
w ork it is, kn ows n o negati on . By the time of Libidinal Ewnomy,
the diference between op positi on and diffe ren ce is w orked by the
Glossary xv
intensive unconscious : opposition, the bar (between conscious
and unconscious) , is itself the work of the unconscious, a simple
disintensifcation, with positive difrence a (disunctive) syn
thetic intensification. The great ephemeral skin is the libidinal
materialist ( dis) solution of fgural difference and conceptual
opposition as polymorphous (hence ' cphcmeral') , material
(hence ' skin') intensity.
15 The Concentratory Zero: thc skin is subj ect t o unlimited
metamorphoses operated by many dispositi, two of which
Lyotard examines under the names of the ' great' and the
' conccntratory' zeros . The frst (see point 11, above) ofthesc, thc
annexing regul ative fore-quarters of the conqueror-ccntaur, as
Lyotard has it, folds and hollows out the band into a site for
regulated reproduction of the s ame. The second, howcvcr, the
samc monster's looting hind-quartcrs , 'puts the system of
reproduction at risk' by jealously looting every over-cxcited
intcnsity in order t o plug them into the same circuits as
established by the frst zero, to the point of immobilizing the
(in) organic body the zero produces , intensifying the COi centra
tory process to the point of becoming fatal to the s tabil i t y it
serves . The two zeros dissimulate each other, they are not
opposed, they are unclcar and indistinct like the principal
pulsions of Eros and Thanatos, life and death.
16 Simulacrum/The Exorbitant: the simulacrum is the name
Lyotard gives to the exchangeable, the equi valent. Thus his
anal ysis of Augustine's thcory of simulacra establishes thc
generalized equivalence and exchangeability of signs for things
due to the participation of the latter in a relation of similarity that
subsists amongst all beings , such unity being guarantecd by (and
guarantecing) God'5 untity with natural things and thc mirrorical
unity of simulacra insofar as language, second-hand (or third-,
for Plato) and representative, is used to display these rclations.
Exchangeability, then, is pn:missed on simil arity. What then of
dissimilarity? The exchangeability of money and goods in
capitalis m also operates a gcncralizcd equivalence which es tab
lishes the value of goods. Every good on the market has a price,
but certain obj ects rcsist being turned into a good. Thus
Klossowski has it that political economy can offer no equi valent
for intensities , highlighting an asymmetrical rclation bctween
capital and libidinal economy. Political economy forecloses the
XVI Libidinal Economy
libidinal, claiming, in conj unction with Augustine, that if a thing
cannot be exchanged, i t has no value and consequentl y docs not
exist, it is not on the market . According to Lyotard, every
political economy is, however, l ibidinal . That intensity has no
equivalent in currency docs not rid the circuits of capital of the
force of libidinal investment; on the contrary, intensive
'exchanges' arc ignorant of the constitutive negation of both
poli tical economy and natural theol ogy since the libido invests
unconditional l y. The l ibidinal exchange in prostitution, for
example, invests the prosti tute's desi re, a desire whose fore
closure capital (and the pimp) demands in order to proft from
the prostitute' s body. Beyond the circuits of capital as far as
political econom y is concerned, l ibidinal exchanges arc ex
orbitant. The exorbitant, having no equivalent, is inevaluable
and unaccountabl e. Moreover, the l ibido' s metamorphic force,
its polyrorphousness, i nvests even these constitutive negations,
for whatever intensi ties it can glean from it, it is prepared to
sacrifce the most exorbitant 'price'.
A Shameless, Immodest Provocation
Lyotard's Economie libidinale occupies a place in the history of
contemporary French thought which many consider a minor and
short-lived explosion of a somewhat naive anti-philosophical
expressionism, an aestheticizing trend hung over from a renewed
interest in Nietzsche prevalent in the late 1960s. It is further held to
be the philosophical expression of the political situationism experi
enced throughout Europe during the same period, just as short
lived, and just as much a 'dead end', as Peter Dews, echoing the
maturity of contemporary wisdom, says in his Logics oj Disintegra
tion (London: Verso, 1987). To situate it more specifcally in regard
to its contemporaneous philosophical climate: it was written in 1974,
two years after Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus (Paris: Minuit,
1972; London: Athlone, 1984), with which it shares many thematic
preoccupations; it is exactly contemporaneous with Luce Irigaray's
Speculum oj the Other Woman (Paris: Minuit, 1974; Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1985), two years before Jean Baudrillard's Sym
bolic Exchange and Death (Paris: Gallimard, 1976; London: Sage,
forthcoming, 1993), seven years after Derrida's OJ Grammatology
(Paris: Minuit, 1967; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1976; and it forms, with these other texts, a series of responses to the
demise of structuralism as the dominant intellectual discourse,
known collectively as poststructuralism. There is a major dif
ference, however, in the trajectories of Libidinal Economy on the one
hand, and the better-known Derridean response on the other; while
the latter endlessly meditates on the end of metaphysics, the former
will exploit and accelerate the movements of generalized disruption
in a fundamentally affrmative manner, seeking to 'conduct' new
and unheard-of intensities: 'We desire the effects of conduction and
the conduction of effects' (Libidinal Economy, VI, p.259). Even
when Derrida insists that dierance be affrmed, in 'Nietzschean'
XVJl1 Lihidinal Economy
[shion as he says, as nameless (but not aimless) amidst 'all the names
of metaphysics', sLch afirmation remains 'simulated' and itself
dissimulates a 'Heideggerian hope' that 'finally', anonymous di
prallce will fnd its 'proper name' in the 'alliance of speech and
Being'. The end of metaphysics is gained through a 'quest' beyond
the 'other side of nostalgia'. 1 Deconstruction is not in quest for what
it has lost, but 'hopes' for what it has never yet found, 'like an old
beast awaiting its pasture', says Lyotard.
Libidinal Ecollomy has in general drawn little critical response, save
losing L yotard many Marxist friends. Indeed, with a few excep
tions, it is now only Lyotard himself who occasionally refers to the
book, to pour new scor on it, calling it his 'evil book, the book of
evilness that everyonc writing and thinking is tcmpted to do'. 2 By
1 <HH, however, Pele
rillatioNs' narrated 'author' has passed from the
flllrfold 'yes' that ends Lihidillal Ecollomy to doing penance for this
great work: 'The readers of this book - thank god they were very
fl'w - generally accepted the product as a rhetorical exercise and gave
no consideration to the upheaval it required of my soul ... Its rare
readers disliked the book, which passed for a piece of shameless
ness, immodesty and provocation. ': Ringing in Molly Bloom's
desire-drunk cars, the yes becomes a death-knell: ' ... the priest
going by with the bell bringing the vatican to the dying ... ' Games
Joyce, Ulysses (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p.6HO).
LyMan/'s Lyotards
From deep on the 'inside' of the academy (the Welleck Library
Lectures) and in fitting confessional mode, the narratee exposes the
academic's genealogy: piety, traditionalism and creativity. In a
single trusting, good-humoured gesture at the opening to 'his'
Peregrinations, Lyotard reveals that he had wanted to be (a) a monk;
(b) an historian; (c) all artist; and (d) a novelist. In each case he was to
meet with various frustrations, until 'in the end', as they say, he
became a philosopher. In a sense, however, the respective modes of
these never-to-be-attained 'professions' have haunted his career:
instead of joining the Dominican order, he entered political
brotherhoods (,Socialisme ou Barbarie' and 'Pouvoir Ouvrier')
whose staunch and solemn intensity still rears its patriarchal head
from time to time ("The sacrifcial aspect of this commitment to
political refex ion and praxis is obviously related to monastic
Introduction XIX
obedience'. PcYc,(rinations, p.17 ) . Upon quitting this brotherhood,
the historian performs the excommunicated's penance in extended
meditations on Auschwitz and Memorials jr Marxism.4 The other
faces making up this academic Hydra are the artist and the novelist,
who contaminate the philosopher's purism, necessitating the 'naIve
ideal' of attaining a 'zero degree style' in The Dif erend (Paris:
Minuit, 1 983; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1 988 ) . To
neutralize the effects of writing, reduce its materi al puissance, its
opacity. As this minimalist desideratum brings style to zero, the
paganism of Libidinal Economy yields to a Judaic monotheism
respectfully attentive to writing as 'the word of the dead father', 5 as
Lyotard says. So Lyotard offers a penitent's explanation for this act
of stylistic contrition: 'I have schooled myself in [Wittgenstein's]
Philosophischc Untersuchungen in order to purge myself .. . Desolat
ing my culture fecundated me. '6 Monotheism and traditionalism
depose the desolate hysteria of paganism.
Lyotard lays clain to the culture he desolates and to the
fecundation it stimulates; a strange moment of appropriation, a
strange difference between 'his' culture and 'his' me. The fnally
proper name, albeit not that of di eranu:, concretizes around
'philosophical readings' of the 'great tradition', 7 whose latest
mouthpiece is the penitent libidinalist. In Libidinal Economy,
however, 'Lyotard' conducts an examination of the proper name as
a tensor sign (see Glossary ) . As an exemplary case of the tensor sign,
Lyotard selects Professor Dr Paul Emil Flechsig, who treated Judge
Daniel Paul Schreber for paranoid psychosis. 8 Flechsig's name is no
longer a depositing site for the stock-piled remnants of an identity,
but functions as an unstable and unpredictable intense sign whose
aleatory whirl traces labyrinthine paths into Judge Schreber's multi
sexed body, drawing, along with jurisprudential, psychiatric and
theological phrases, even a libidinal-somatic semiotics, into its
untraceable wake.
- Are you suggesting that 'Lyotard' is a paranoid psychotic, a
Schreber, spoken by 'God's nerves' or some such thing? Surely he
remains a writer, perhaps even a philosopher?
- Exactly how Schreber got out of hospital: he asked that his
writing be taken as testimony of his sanity. Lyotard has 'himself
testifed that Economic libidinale links paganism with hysteria:
paganism has no one god who is removed from the civic, social or
philosophical stage, but on the contrary, a multiplicity of gods who
xx Lihidinal Economy
s warm over it. ' Hysterical anxiety' , as Lyotard writes , ' signals not
that t he god is too far away but that he is too clos e ... ' I ntimacy
with the gods without seeing their faces' would not be too far
fetched a description of Lihidinal Economy' 9 But this is not a sa nity
trial -we arc interested in writing, and writing , says Lyotard , is
irrlspollsihll',1 p erhaps b ecause it fies inevitably towards the multi
ple rath er than ho ming in on the one; Perhaps we have the
b eginnings of an intensive theory of textuality , and with it , an
hysterical rather than a penitent account of ' the evil book'. I s
Lyotard th en an author , even a responsible one? This is ho w he
counters Van Den Abbeele's attempts to assess ' Lyotard's' respon
sibility f) r ' his works':
If the heterogeneity of , my' work ' passes by' [depassci the reader ,
it also ' passes by' me , insofar as Iam my frst reader. However , I
am also the supposed ' author' of , my' work , and you ask about
my r esponsibility with re gard to it. ... We never publish
anything exc ept rou gh drafs ... And i n this sense , Ican without
lyin g plead li mited responsibility. That is to say: a reader ca nnot
incorrectly locate in a piece of writing an aspect which , ac cordi ng
to me , is not there at all. (D, p.16)
' I can without lying plead limited responsibility': it is tempti ng to
pursue a sanity trial , or even to subject ' Lyotard' or his ' work' to
tensorial scrutiny. Scandalous. We shall momentarily shift our
concern to the multiplicity of discourses in which ' Lyotard's texts'
have engaged before and after the publication of Libidinal Ecolomy.
011 or Several Lyotards;
In the introduction to his book Lyotard: Writing the Event ( hereafter
cited as LWE), Geoffrey Be nningto n re ports that ' Lyotard sees
himself as havi ng written three ' real' books (Discours, fgure,
Econolie libidinale and Le Diferend)' (LWE, p.2). Around these three
texts are clusters of ' minor' works , collections of ' preparatory'
essays , an d suchlike. Despite the manifest heterogeneity of ' philo
so phical' works on libido theory , semiotics and the problem of
justi ce , there are other works marki ng i ncursio ns into other realms
of writing: a recit Le Mur du Pacique; experime ntal essays , for
exa mple ' Desirevolution' , i n Derive . . . ; texts from a n e xperime n
tal ' postmodern Crystal Palace'!! exhibitio n;books whi ch are the
result of collaboratio ns with co ntem porary artists , a nd so o n.
Introduction XXI
After having adopted this device, however, Bennington indicates
the problematics of inclusion/ exclusion attendant upon it, electing
fnally to accept the homogenization his schema imposes. Succumb
ing to the 'temptation' of the same and universalizing this fall as the
'theology' of 'representation' (as Lyotard reminds us, reverence for
the question of representation is a 'fall', a 'collapse', the 'weakening
of intensities', necessary to 'philosophical discourse'12), Bennington
goes on to fulfl the criteria of representation by constructing a
corpus, a 'career', inscribing his discourse on the interior of the body
of 'Lyotard's' oeuvre. We will not be the media perpetuating this
'general agonistics of the proper name' (Van Den Abbeele)13, nor
will we provide another bibliographical or biographical (nor even a
thanatographical) account of Lyotard's work. 14 And rather than
emphasize the obvious heterogeneity of 'Lyotard's' works (from
the 'neutral place', as Judith Still says, of their unifcation under the
logical ascetism of the 'rigid designator'IS the function of which is
to establish the inside and outside of the Bennington/Lyotard
oeuvre), we emphasize that, far from designating an interiority, the
proper name is a tensor. At low intensity: 'proper names have that
property of attracting to themselves phrases belonging to different
regimens and to heterogeneous genres of discourse' (D, p. 20). High
intensity: melting fragments that never were a totality into unheard
of confgurations: to logicians and other nihilists, the tensor is the
name of impropriety. Scandal. As Felix Guattari somewhat pom
pously snaps at Lyotard in particular and 'the Postmoderns' in
general, 'I believe that this philosophy is no philosophy at all . . .
[The postmodern] is nothing but a state of mind that happens to be
in the air, a 'condition' of public opinion that gets its truths out of its
surroundings . . . '16. Not 'philosophy'? Not critical, improper in
that it refuses to stabilize into a proprietary inside and outside.
The opening event of Libidinal Economy: the anatomy of 'poly
morphous perversion' undoes the libidinal investments and somatic
folds that maintain the proper body. The volume implied in
thinking the skin as the ego's boundary between the interior and the
exterior (as Freud doesl7), spills into the folds and twists of the great
ephemeral skin. The cold Kantian logic of Lyotard's 'Deduction of
the Voluminous Body' contrasts with the extreme tension between
XXI I Lihidirtal EC0lOm
life and death that is intensifed with each cut in the skin of this
'body', in the little flds and their defences that constitute the
organism, and the libido's indifference to such folds. Already faint
rumours of Kant and Freud's complicity in this text can be
discered. Later chapters involve Marx, Machiavelli, Baudrillard1H
and K l ossowski, to name but a few. Its immediate context,
however, is most profitably explored in relation to Gilles Delcuze
and Felix Guattari's Ami-Oediplls: CapitalislIl al/d SchizophYCIlia Part I
(hereafer cited as AI/ti-Ocdipl's). This work, as Vincent Descombes
points out in his Modal/ Frel/{h Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1980), continues the largely failed project of a
synthesis of Freud and Marx in the work of Wilhelm Reich and the
frankfurt School theoreticians Herbert MarclSe and Erich Fromm.
I klcuze and Cuattari establish the site of this welding by indus
trializing the unconscious, hence AI/ti-Oediplls' 'desiring-machines'
that constitute the various modes of unconscious investment. They
attack Marxism t()r its derisory attitude towards the unconscious,
and psychoanal ysis for limiting its range to the individualized
psychical apparatus. Just as Lyotard writes 'Every Political Econ
omy Is Libidinal', so Anti-Oediplls has it that desiring-production
'machines', as they say, social material. We have, then, a libidinal,
rather than a dialectical or historical, materialism.
But there is another main player in the cast of Anti-Oedipus:
K an tian critique:
In what he termed the critical revolution, Kant intended to
discover criteria immanent to understanding so as to distinguish
the legitimate and illegitimate uses of the syntheses of conscious
ness. In the name of transcendental philosophy (immanence of
criteria ), he therefore denounced the transcendent use of syn
theses such as appeared in metaphysics. In like fashion we are
compelled to say that psychoanalysis has its metaphysics - its
name is Oedipus. And that a revolution - this time materialist -
can proceed only by way of a critique of Oedipus, denouncing
the illegitimate use of the syntheses of the unconscious as found
in Oedipal psychoanal ysis, so as to rediscover a transcendental
unconscious defned by the immanence of its criteria, and a
corresponding practice that we shall call schizoanalysis. (Gilles
Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, tr. Robert Hurley,
Mark Seem and Helen Lane (London: Athlone, 1 984 ) , p.75 )
Introduction XX111
Psychoa nalysis claims , as did speculative metap hysics , to k now
desi re , to ide ntify its privileged fo rms . But everythi ng psycho
a nalysis k nows about desi re it k nows by inecti ng it int o a ce rtai n
schema c alled Oedi pus , a closed , familial ci rcuit whe rei n desi re
plays out its d ramas of co nfict , seduction , a nd anxiety with the
fgu res of the child , the mothe r a nd the fathe r. The impe rialism of
Oedipus' is such that a ny path sketched out by abe rr a nt desi re is
immediately b rought b ack to the fold. To p roduce the wolf -fathe r
out of the c rowd of w olves in the Wolf -Ma n's p ha ntasies , F reud
tu rns the c rowd i nto sheep so that t he wolf -fat he r m ay devou r
them. He nce: ' a schi zoph re nic out fo r a walk is a hette r m odel tha n a
neu rotic lyi ng o n the a nalyst's couch' (Anti-Oedipus, p . 2) . So rathe r
th an havi ng discove red the ' t rue' paths of li hidi nal i nvestme nt , the
psychoa nalyst uses his f amilial , Oedipal p rejudice to e ngi nee r
neu rotics: ' yes , my boss is my fathe r, a nd so is the Head of State ,
a nd so a re you , Docto r' , as they say (Anti-Oedipus, p . 35). Schi z
oa nalysis does not me rely de nounce Oedipus , as K ant de nou nces
metaphysics' s peculative attempts to p rove o r disp rove God's
existe nce , as a n illusio n, but c ritiques it as a st ructure i n which the
u nco nscious is t rap ped by psychoa nalytic metaphysics. Schi z
oa nalysis evokes the diffe re nce betwee n t he machi ne a nd the
st ructu re i n te rms of the immane nce of the f orme r to the
u nco nscious . ' Everyo ne k nows that the schi zo is a machine' (Anti
Oedipus, p . 381).
Whe n Lyota rd , the refo re , w rites i n his review essay o n Anti
Oedipus, ' Ca pitalisme e ne rgumc ne' , I, that it ' is n ot a book of
c ritique' , but rathe r a n ' e ne rgetic positio n i nsc ribed in discou rse ,
whe re negatio n of the adve rsa ry takes place not by me ans of the
Aujebung [ sublatio n] , but th rough fo rgetting' (DP p . lO) , it is at
least dif fcult to reco ncile this p rima -facie oblivion of a nti -Oedipal
c ritique with the im po rta nce of the c ritical architect ure of Deleu ze
a nd Guatt ari's text . What is impo rta nt as regards Lyota rd's ( fu nda
mentally Hegelia n-Ma rxia n) model of c ritique is t he fu nctio n a nd
fo rm of negatio n. I n the above quote he establishe s the dive rge nce
of the Hegelia n Aujebung a nd Niet zschean forgetti ng i n this
respect . Whe re Deleu ze a nd Guatta ri , emphasi zi ng the imma ne nce
of c ritique to the c ritici zed cha racte ristic of the K antia n model ,
establish the c ritical mecha nism i n a relatio n of imma ne nce with the
schi zo -machi nes , Tyota rd sees c ritique as ir revocably tied to the
adve rsa r y's positio n. ' Get out immediately' is Lyotard's a nti -c ritical
XXIV Libidinal EconOlny
response, ' forget immanence, it can only belong to the enemy'. This
paranoia concerning the inside and the outside of enemy territory is
apparently dispelled in Libidinal Economy: ' be inside and forget it,
that's the position of the death drive' (LE, 1 p.3; emphasis added).
Extreme critical tension: the alliance of Freud and Kant in the critical
The force of Arlti-Oediplls, however, lies precisely in its libidinal
materialist critique of psychoanalysis. Such a critique does not aim,
as Reich's did, to produce a liberation of the unconscious or of
sexuality, but to dissociate desire from lack, making desire a positive
trce, conditioning the social feld in its entirety rather than being
conditioned by a subject's lack or deprivation ( such as Freud used to
provide the psychoanalytic ' conception' of the female as ' lacking a
penis'). Why then docs Lyotard read Anti-Oedipus as all acritical
book? A certain loathing of critique resonates throughout what may
be called Lyotard's ' libidinal period'. I ndeed, despite the Freudo
Kantian axis mentioned above, critique remains the privileged
object of rejection, a hated, isolated, despicable colony of virulent
negativity at the hot core of Libidinal blOmy.
The passage from pious and passionate critical activity to its
deunciation and exile can be traced through Lyotard's two 1973
collections of essays. I n the 1979 preface to the second edition of
Des Dispositif pulsioneis, however, the post critical libido is
denounced as the speculative ' metaphysics of desire' (DP, I ntroduc
tion to 2nd edn (1979) , p.iii), marking a new shift where philosophy
goes ' back to its beginnings in Kant' (DP p.iii) to a traditionalist,
paranoiac and properly Kantian model of critique, where the libido
now occupies the position of t he exile. As t his denunciatiull
continues in Lyotard's works after 1979 , it is accompanied by an
increasing attachment to this conception of critique, leading
Lyotard to pitch ' Kant against Freud' in an essay from 1984 , 20 and to
identify, in L'Enthotisiasme ( Paris: Galilee, 1986) , critique with
We have, then, a libidinal hostility to critique and a critical hostility to
the libidinal. I n the English-speaking world, we might perhaps be
tempted to rush into identifying this s ituation as a ' differend'
between the two parties. I f so, it is a differend, a confict, which
Lyotard has been anxious to solve in one way or another. For
example, in an interview with Willem van Reijel and Dick
Veerman, he claims that 'Le Diferend remedies the shortcomings of
Introduction xxv
Economie libidinale; it is an attempt to say the same things but without
unloading problems so important as justice' (1, pp. 3001; emphasis
added). Again, in Lefons sur L'Analytique du Sublime (Paris: Galilee,
1991, p.183), Lyotard mentions an 'affective differend' ('Ie dierend
afectuel'). What this demonstrates is an ongoing critical attempt to
recuperate the libido; the 'attempt to say the same things' constitutes
a critical gesture according to Lyotard's reading of the Alhebung as
its privileged means, rather than the forgetting characteristic of the
acritical mode of, as Lyotard sees it, Anti-Oedipus. How can the
'crisis of Libidinal Economy' (Peregrinations, p.16) be solved? Or: since
the libido 'invests unconditionally', how does it invest [bestetzen 1
The Libidinal Economics oj Critical Philosophy
Besetzung is Freud's German for what the Standard Edition gives as
'cathexis'. The French translation is investissement, 'investment',
which is the fscal sense of the German term. In the New Introductory
Lectures on Psychoanalysis Freud plays with another of its senses. The
superego has the arduous task of keeping the id in order, a task it
accomplishes, writes Freud, by 'install[ing] a garrison [Besetzung] in
the place where insurrection threatens' (Standard Edition Vol. 22,
pp.llO11). The superego occupies, takes up a position, counter
invests in the id's troubled areas. In this, psychoanalysis deploys a
militarist ethic just as critique does, since for the latter confict is the
motor of its necessity. For example, in the Critique oj Pure Reason
(hereafter cited as CPR), Kant writes:
To deny that the service which the Critique renders is positive in
character, would thus be like saying that the police are of no
positive beneft, inasmuch as their main business is merely to
prevent the violence of which citizens stand in mutual fear.
(CPR, Bxxv)
Both psychoanalysis and critique desire that the situation be
stabilized; the former aims to stabilize the boundaries on the interior
of the 'psychical apparatus' (Freud's name for the three agencies: id
ego-superego), through a 'dynamic equilibrium' being established
by rival investments on the same territory by different agencies.
Critique, on the other hand, hollows out a space on its own interior
where the conficts on which it feeds can be played out as 'mock
XXVI Libidillal Ecollomy
combats', the deluded participants (speculative metaphysicians)
supplying the 'peaceable onlooker' (the critical philosopher in his
'safe scat') with contributions to 'theoretical insight', a kind of
surplus-value for pure reason (CPR, A 747 /B77S).
Both orientations hollow out an interiority, stabilizing its borders
through coun tlr-insurrection manoeuvres or th rough annexation.
It is critique's function to redraw the borders of its territories and to
strictly position reason within its proper fcld, the imagination in its
proper feld, and so on.2
It is this positioning, this installation
[lsCiZlIllg], which is the Freudian libidinal operator par excellence.
And it is this function which Lyotard is concered to analyse in
Libidillal Ecol/omy in terms of the energetics of the bar and the band
(sec Glossary, points < and 1).
Critiqlle illli Crisis
Just as Schreber's name is linked up with God's nerves and with the
Saxon judiciary, just as the skin can be operated on so as to produce
the most rililized (the most I l {rotic) human being or the most intense
and unchartablc metamorphoses, so critique has an intensive range.
We have scen the im portance of military-fscal-Iibidinal Bcsetzlmgcl
in the critical function, we must now follow its mutations across the
range of displacements to which it is subjected by the various
libidinal investments critique has fled under the name 'Lyotard'. We
shall take three texts: 'On Theory: an Interview' (with Brigitte
Devismes), 'Adrift'2 3, and Libidinal Economy itself
In 'On Theory' (which dates from 1970, before his frst maor
book, Disc(UYS) j,UVC) Lyotard retns a solidly Iv1arxiJil view of
The function of theory is not only to understand, but also to
criticize, i.e. to call into question and overturn a reality, social
relationships, the relationships of men with things and other men,
which arc clearly intolerable. And as far as I am concerned, that is
the dimension of politics. (DPMF, p.210/ Driworks, p.1Y)
Lyotard repeats Marx's gesture: just as
the critique of heaven turns into the critique of earth, the critique
of religion into the critique of law and the critique of theology
into the critique of politics .. . [CJriticism is not a passion of the
head, but the head of passion. It is not a scalpel; it is a weapon.2 4
Introduction XXVll
so theory is to pass from understanding to overturning situations
which are 'clearly intolerable'. Intolerable to whom, or to what? To
the exploited, the proletariat, a 'constant subject' subjected, in the
classic example, by the Industrial Revolution to 'inhuman' condi
tions. The survival of the proletariat under these conditions is
generally explained by the scope and effectiveness of the revolu
tion: it was either that or die - they had to go from the country to the
new urban environments, had to labour in factories, in mines,
merely in order to survive. Such critique serves a supposed master,
the oppressed, in the name of the future and of justice. Preparing
for the scandal ('hang on tight and spit on me' ), Libidinal Economy
offers another analysis. It is never 'that or die', but always 'that and
die': the Industrial Revolution machines new 'inhuman' poten
tialities,2 5 a different afctive range, a generalized metamorphosis
which sweeps away the pious, missionary fction of the alienated
and oppressed constant subject, displacing the orientation of this
struggle from the 'white terror' of theory to the 'red cruelty' of
acephalization.2 ( The 'head of passion' is removed and there is
nothing in its place:
This trap consists quite simply in responding to the demand of the
vanquished theory, and this demand is: put something in my
place. The important thing is this place, however, not the contents
of the theory. It is the place of theory that must be vanquished.
And this can come about only through displacement and fight.
(Libidinal Economy, p.OOO)
'Put something in my place', says vanquished theory. In the name of
the future, of the revolution 'to come', obstacles are placed in the
way of displacement and fight, repressions, we might say, like
dams into rapids. Pressure brings out the libidinal in the theoretical:
replace me, reinvest, make my position immortal, demands theory,
ignorant of its own passing.
'Derives' (1 972 ) fully exposes the type of investment demanded
by the critical and the theoretical.
[Critique] ... is deeply rational, deeply consistent with the
system. Deeply reformist: the critic remains in the sphere of the
criticized, he belongs to it, goes beyond one term of the position
but does not alter the position of the terms. (DPMF, p.14/
Dritworks, p.13)
Critique is defned by its maintenance of static forms, whether of
the universal subject, the proletariat, or the forms of labour and
X XV1 l 1 Libidinal Economy
exploitation; it even blocks its own issue in its almost Platonic
commitment to retaining the system' s position. 27 A sudden change
of tack, a crisis. Must the critic labour at the interminable task
presented by the deconstruction of accepted forms and stable
positions (, Only form lends itself to expressing the movement of
the revolution form is the revolution' : DPMF, p.31 )? Or docs the
l1 0rphic move inexorably into the metamorphic of itself Is it now
necessary to rewrite the ' critique of political economy' , or of
metaphysics, or even, as Lyotard suggests in 'Judiciousness in
Dispute' , a 'critique of critical reason' (,Judicieux dans le differend' ,
i n La Faculte de jU,'er, ed. , J. F. Lyotard, tr. Cecile Lindsay, i n The
Lyotard Reader, ed. Andrew Benjamin (Oxford: Blackwell, 1 989 ) ,
p.328 ) . ' No need' , says Libidinal Ecollomy, ' just be inside and forget
it, that's the position of the death drive' (p.3). Forget the stable
positionslinvestl11ents, forgetting rather than negativity, the acriti
cal orientation Lyotard ascribes to Anti-Oedipls. This is the orienta
tion adopted ill ' Derives' :
It is not true that . . . the occupation of a position necessarily entails
its critique and compels us to adopt a position which will
negatively contain and sublate the former. (DPMF, p. 13/ DriJ
Ii' orks, p. 1 2; emphasis added )
The crisis does not entail a critical denccation of critique, there is no
need to renew critique, to reinstate the head of passion (or 'the
Queen of all the sciences' , as Kant has it. CPR, Avii ) . Nor is it
necessary that an anti-critique be formulated to right the wrongs of
its predecessor. Taking up the l exical hint italicized in the above
quote, Lyotard continues:
There is a forgotten Freud in this reading, the one who dared to
write that the libido never relinquishes one investment for a better
one. (ibid. )
Freud continually emphasized that the unconscious has no capacity
for negation. Unconscious libidinal investments arc superimposed
one upon the other, just as ' [Rome's] ancient ruins . . . have
provided the material for more recent structures' ( The Interpretation
Dreams, VI, 1 ) . Such investments are, in the language of Libidinal
Economy, incompossible. They are 'blocked together' , as Bill
Readings says, drawing on a Lyotardian lexis from the time of
' Derives . . . ' , in his Introducing Lyotard (London: Routledge, 1 99 1 ) ,
Introduction XXIX
without considerations of temporal or spatial order. Further, there is
an extreme mobility of unconscious energies, a mobility which
fnds ingress, despite 'repression' , into conscious organizations, by
means of displacements: if the dam holds, the banks burst.
Deformation, distortion:
What follows does not belong to the drift from Marx and Freud,
but to the drift which continues/discontinues it, adrift from this
drift . . . Derivatio [diverting] is not simply leaving a shore, but
diverting a rivus rstream] , a course, a fuidity. Where It goes, we
were not going r (a va ailleurs que Id oil / 'on allait] . What joy if rip a
[shore] were derived from rivus, if this were the streaming which
determined the shore! The shore of the stream, of the ocean,
displaces itself along with it. (DPMF p. 9)
The 'crisis' of Libidinal Economy is a perpetual displacement, an
eternal turning rather than a splitting: ' drifting by itself is the end of
all critique' (DPMF, p. 1 5/Driftworks, p. 13) . Instead of fxing
territories, setting up shields, or installing garrisons, libidinal
investments traverse the entire metamorphic range of these
unlimited displacements. The shores are disfgured and identities
wrecked in this postcritical torrent which engulf Kant' s safe seat as
much as the garrisons of the psychoanalytic superego.
Phantasy Island: Back to Kant
Jean-Luc Nancy opens his contribution to the 1985 Cerisy collo
quium on Lyotard' s work with a recognition of the latter' s 'playing
the stakes of Kantian resources' . 28 We have already mentioned
Lyotard' s turn to Kant, this turn being at Freud's expense. There is a
distinct asymmetry here, an irreversibility in the critical Besetzung:
while the libido 'invests unconditionally' , critique regroups to
denounce the libido as a ' metaphysics of desire' . We have sketched
an intensive range which runs through the term 'critique' in
Lyotard' s work, carrying it from the privileged tool of a rigid
political agenda to a 'crisis' , a krisis, a splitting. This splitting became
at one point the focus of Lyotard' s attention in the form of the
differend, a radical and insoluble dispute whose demands for a
justice can never be satisfed: the philosopher can only ' bear witness
to the differend' in order to ' save the honour of thinking'. 29 In a
sense The Dierend exemplifes critical mechanisms: the return to a
xxx Libidinal Economy
sense of the ' clearl y i ntol erabl e' , this t i me in a metaphysi cal
hi storical register (the cl assi c exampl e is Fauri sson' s questi on
conceri ng the real i ty of the Hol ocaust) , testifed to by the
occurrence of the differend whi ch prevents the i ssue of a verdi ct,
returs an obj ect to the cri tical proj ect - criti que i tsel f The cri ti cal
orbi t i s no longer a cycl e from theoretical questi oni ng to a real
overturi ng and back, but a stutteri ng arc, ceaselessl y fai l i ng to
ci rcul lls cribe its recedi ng domi ni on , l l l ol l 1 enL iri l y and provi si onal l y
l i nki ng up with other domi ni ons, whether these be cal l ed ' l anguage
games' , ' genres ' , or whatever el se of thi s sort. These ' i sl ands ' , or
' the Archipel ago' as Lyotard terms thi s topography, these uncon
nected tragments no l onger cry out for their reuni fcation into a
' proper body' , but constant l y seek recogni ti on of i nj ustices perpe
trated upon them. I nj usti ce can merel y be witnessed in the arc' s
Rashes, to which the ' critical watchman' may bear testi mony: fall
out frm the Enl i ghtenment , burni ng fragments of the French
Revol ut i on and its Supreme Bei ng ") il l umi nate the crisi s. No l onger
the concentric cycle with i ts fxed futural reference, nor the
eccentric eteral tur of the l i bi di nal band, but a penitent ' s attempt
to retur t o t he crisis at the end of criti que.
More recentl y, there arc perhaps si gns that thi s retur i s no l onger
possi bl e. I n L'Inll lllll lill , for exampl e, this recogni ti on:
I II this res pect, even what may be most di sturbing i n Kant , whi ch
is not anthropological , but stri ctl y transcendental , whi ch in the
(ritical tCllSion goes to the point of shattering the more or l ess
presupposed uni ty of the subj ect, as i s the case, in exempl ary
fashion, i t seems to me, i n the anal ysi s of the subl i me or the
historico-politic 1 wri ti ngs, even that i s expurgated, sanitized.
Under the pretext of a return to Kant, we merely s helter humani st
prejudice under his authori ty. ( L'Inhunlill , p. 9; emphasi s added)
Wi th the sanitizing phant asy of a return to Kant' s critical i sl and
di spelled, the ' critical tensi on' i s bui l di ng up agai n. The regul ated
cycles of revol uti onary cri ti que, and the stuttering arcs that mark i ts
memori al , arc themscIves i ncompossi bk fragments of the
duplicitous critical-li bi di nal Besetzung, di spl aced and di sfgured
along the l i bi do' s unaccountable fows . Is i t a ' metaphysi cs of
desi re' ?
The question remained and has remained . . . i s Bei ng shameful
. . . ? What about hysteri a , especi al l y hypochondri a, as a mode i n
which Being or the law can be divined? ' (Peregrinations p. 1 4) .
Introduction XXXI
And the sublime, a tensor deployed in the rigid hierarchies of the
faculties, intensifing critique, 'carr[ying] with it both pleasure and
pam .. . which some would call neurosis or masochism' . 3 ! How to
This is Lyotard' s ' evil book' , do not expect ans wers to the
questions it generates , nor excuses or rationalizations of its scandals.
Read impiously, brutally, through this divine and incompossible
libidinal multiplicity, pagan like Nietzsche - 'I am all the names in
history' . If you must judge, then take this opportunity to 'judge
without criteria' , since never were there fewer, be the (hysterical )
judge in the sanity trial we tempted you with, dear reader, add to the
' very few readers' of this ' honourable sinful offering' . To para
phrase Lyotard:
A discourse at maximum intensity? This is much more than a
critique, which is perhaps only a degenerate amusement. 32
1 . Jacques Derrida, ' Differance' , i n Peggy Kamuf (cd. ) , A Derrida Reader
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1 991 ) , pp. 767.
2 Jean-Franois Lyotard, Pere,rinations (New York: Columbia University
Press , 1 988) , p. 1 3; hereafter cited as Pere,rinations.
3 ibid. , p. 1 4.
4 Sec Jean-Franois Lyotard, ' A Memorial of Marxism' , t r. Cecile
Lindsay, i n ibid. , pp. 45-76, for a detailed account of Lyotard' s Marxist
past. See also his La Guerre des Algeriens. Ecrits 1 9561 963 (Paris : Galilee,
1 989) .
5 Jean-Franois Lyotard, ' Figure Foreclosed' , in Andrew Benj amin (cd. ) ,
The Lyotard Reader ( Oxford: Blackwell, 1 989) , p. 96.
6 Georges Van Den Ahbeele, ' I nterview with Jean-Francois Lyotard' ,
Diacritics, 1 4: 3 ( 1 984) , p. 1 7; hereafter cited as D.
7 Di ck Veerman and Will em van Reij en, ' An I nterview withJean-Francois
Lyotard' , Theory, Culture and Society, 5 ( 1 988) , p. 278; Hereafter ci ted as
8 Schreber' s case is examined by Freud in ' Psychoanalytic Notes upon an
Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Para
noides) ' , in the Standard Edition, ed. James Strachy (London: Hogarth
Press , 1 953-74; hereafer cited as SE) , Vol. 12, pp. 1-82. The basis of
Freud' s study i s the ' Autobiographical Account' : Daniel Paul Schreber,
Memoi rs ofmy Nervous Illness, ed. and tr. Ida Macalpine and Ri chard A.
Hunter (Cambridge, Mas s . : Harvard University Press, 1 988) .
XXXII Li bidinal Econom
< Pcrc,srilaliolls, p. I S. Lyotard' s narrati ve conti nues to expl oi t the theme
of piety: ' The l1onk I tri ed to becol1l e shoul d have remi nded hi msel f
that t he pol Yl1l orphi c pagani sm of expl ori ng and expl oi ti ng t he whol e
range of intensi ve for ms coul d easi l y be swept away i nto l awful
permi ssi veness, incl udi ng vi ol ence and terror. Of course, I had not yet
recovered from the temptati on of i ndi fference. ' Lyotard' s concer
with pagani sm begins in LihidilI a/ E{(J nomy with a secti on enti tl ed ' Pagan
Theatrics ' ( pp. OO -OO) . His two subsequent works conti nue thi s theme
Rlidimlts pai "l'fIS and IIIStYllCliOIS pii'cl l i l es - and feed i nt o the di scussi on of
Li/)idina/ Economy in just Gamill,S.
1 J C:n-Fran<ois Lyotard, just Caming, tr. WI ad Godzi ch, Theory and
l l istory of Literature, Vol . 20 ( Manchester: Manchester Uni versi ty
Press, 1 985) , p. 8; hereafter ci ted as jG.
I I Cf John Raj chmann ' The Postmoder Museum' , Art i n America, 73: 1
(October I <H5) , and Kate Li nker, 'A Refecti on 011 Postnwderis m' ,
A rt/elY/1I1I , 24: 1 (Septcl 1ber I <H5) .
1 2 J can-Fral lois Lyotanl, ' Notes sur I e retour et I e capi t al ' , i n Des Dispositifs
pU/SiOllc/S (pari s : UGE, 1 <73; hereafter cited as DP) , p. 2< I ; t r. Roger
McKeon as ' Notes 011 the Retur and Capi tal ' , Snll iOlext ( c) , 3: I , ( 1 <78) ,
p. 44.
1 3 George Van De Abbecle uses thi s t erm to describe Lyotard' s poli ti cs in
D, p. 20.
1 4 For exampl e, Eddi e Yeghi ayan' s ' Checkl i st of Wri ti ngs by and about
Jean-Fran<ois Lyotard' i n Pcrcgrilatiolls i s an excel lent bi bl i ography.
1 5 The ' ri gi di ty' of Benni ngton' s deployment of the desi gnator ' Lyotard' ,
of what i s and i s not proper to hi s name, i s scruti ni zed by Judi th Sti ll in
her ' Reacting to Lyotard' , i n Paragraph 1 2(3) ( 1 989) , pp. 239-48. She cites
two overt examples of this 'pur et dur' rigidity in its exclusive usage:
Benni ngton' s di smi ssal of The Postmodern Condition ' because, he
expl ains, i t i s the least representati ve of Lyotard' s work' (p. 248, n. 1 2) ;
and the non-appearance of a ny renti on of ' One of the Thi ngs a t Stake
in Women' s Struggles' (tr. D. J. Cl ark, W. Woodhull and J. Mowi tt,
Suh-Stance, 20 ( 1 97H) , an essay from Rudiments pais ' whi ch does not
fi gure i n Lyotard: Writing the Event ' , p. 247 n. I ) , from whi ch Still takes
her opening quote. Covert examples of this usage arc scattered
throughout Sti ll' s text. Benni ngt on' s book is, she wri tes, ' i mpeccably
fai thful to the discipline (i f only i n the sense of ri gorous training) of
deconstruction' ( p. 239) .
1 6 Felix Guattari, 'The Postmodern Dead End' , t r. Nancy make in Flash
Art 1 28 ( 1 9H6) , p. 41 .
1 7 See Freud, ' Beyond the Pl easure Pri nci ple' , SE, Vol . 1 8. Cf 11 . 2 1
bel ow.
18 Jul i an Pefanis explores the common roots, as he sees them, between
Lyotard and Baudrillard i n the work of Georges Batai lle and Marcel
Introduction XXX111
Mauss. See Pefanis, Heterology and the Postmoder: Bataille, Baudrillard,
Lyotard (London: Duke University Press, 1 991 ) , especially chapter 5,
' Lyotard and theJouissance of Practical Reason' . For his part, Baudrillard
is forever taking side-swipes at the libidinal Lyotard in particular. See,
for example, Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, tr. I. H.
Grant (London: Sage, forthcoming 1993) and 'The Precession of
Simulacra' , tr. Paul Foss and Paul Patton, in Simulatiol (New York:
Semiotext(e) , 1 983) .
1 9 DP, pp. 7-49. Tr. James Leigh as ' Energumen Capitalism' , Semi otext (e) 2
(3) , ( 1 977) , pp. 1 1-26 .
20 ' La Peinture du secret a l ' cre postmoderne: Baruchello' , TralJerses 301 ,
(March 1 984) , p. 96.
21 I n Beyond the Pleasure Principle, however, Freud ' speculates' on the
libido' s involvement in pre-differentiated matter, producing the cele
brated Eros-Thanatos couple, or the life drives and death drives to
account for the development of life forms : libido theory becomes a
transcendental account of the ' deduction of interiority' , to paraphrase
Lyotard, from undifferentiated libidinal pulsations, the complexifca
tion of life and death drives determining the development of the
organism from its most primitive state (the single-celled amoeba) to its
' most developed' (human society) . Psychoanalysis acquires , in Kantian
terms, a libidinal noumenon.
22 Lyotard has recently devoted considerable quantities of energy to
elaborating Kant's notion of the sublime ( ' philosophically' in Le
Diferend, L'Enthousiasme, and most recently in Lefons sur L' Analytique du
Sublime; and ' aesthetically' in L'Assassinat de I 'experience par la peinture,
Monory (Pari s: Le Castor Astral, 1 984) , Que Peindre (Paris: Editions de la
Difference, 1 987) , and in several shorter essays. As regards the current
discussion, what is striking about the theory of the sublime is the
improper admixture of the proper felds of the imagination and the
23 ' On Theory: an Interview' and ' Adrift' , tr. Roger McKeon, i n Jean
Francois Lyotard, Dritworks (New York: Semiotext(e) , 1 984; hereafter
cited as Dritworks) , from ' Sur la theorie' and ' Derives' in Deri ve a partir
de Marx et Freud (Pari s: UGE, 1 973 hereafter cited as DPMF) .
24 Karl Marx, ' Contribution to the Critique of Hegel' s Philosophy of
Right: Introduction' , i n The Portable Karl Marx, ed. Eugene Kamenka
(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1 983) , pp. 1 1 6, 1 1 7.
25 The acephal us, the headless monster invented by Masson and celebrated
by Bataille, turns up in the first section of Libidinal Economy. See section
I, n. 3.
26 Lyotard' s example in Li bidinal Economy (repeated in Les Trmlormateurs
Duchamp (Pari s: Galilee, 1 977; hereafter cited as TD) , pp. 21-6) is an
otologi cal experiment by Tomatis concerning the auditory range of a
XXXIV Libidinal EcotollY
worker neutralized by exposure to frequenci es of 20, OOO Hz. Thi s, says
Lyotard, i s not a l oss to a s upposed proper body, but a ' contri buti on t o
the demensurati on of what i s taken t o be human' ( TD, p. 23/ Li bidinal
Economy, pp. OO-OO) .
27 Critique' s mechani sms of deferral , so stri ki ngl y si mi l ar to those of
psychoanal ysi s, ar c read out l i ke catechi sm i n ' On Theory' : ' Even i f we
managed to put an end t o certai n forms of expl oi tati on and oppressi on,
the deconstruction of what is wri tten, taken for granted, connotated -
habi ts, i nsti tuti ons, non-subverted phantasm a - woul d be an i ntermi n
able tas k. ' (DPMF, p. 225/ Dri(tworks, p. 32) .
28 Jean-Luc Nancy, ' Dies I rae' , in J . F. Lyotard, (cd . ) , La Facuite de juger
( Pari s: Mi nui t, 1 (85) , p. 1 2.
29 Jean-Fran<oi s Lyotard, The DiJercld, transl ated from Le Diferend
(Pari s: Mi nui t, 1 (83) by George Van Den Abbeel c ( Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1 988) , pp. xiii, xii, respecti vel y.
30 The occasion of the French Revol uti on affords Kant a si gn of the
' progress of humani ty towards the better' ( see I . Kant, ' I s The Human
Race Constantl y Progressi ng' , in Kall t 011 History, cd. Lewi s Whi te
Beck ( New York: Macmi l l an, 1 963) , pp. 1 37-1 54) . Kant i gnores the
Terror (hi s essay was wri tten i n 1 7')8, whi l e the Terror began in wi nter
1 793 wi th Robespierre' s ascendancy after the tri al and executi on of the
Girondi ns) , concentrati ng i nstead on the ' enthusi asm' these events
provoke i n the spectators, which he reads as a si gn of humani ty' s
progres s. The Di fferend contai ns a di scussi on of enthusi asm whi ch
adopts l i bi di nal-economi c terms . Enthusi asm, wri tes Lyotard, i s ' a
periodi c unbri dl i ng . . . an energeti c si gn, a tensor of Wunsch' ( p. 1 67) .
3 1 Jean-Fran<ois Lyotard, ' Answeri ng the Questi on: What is Postmoder
nism? ' , tr. Regis Durand, i n The lostmodern Condi tiol: A Report on
Klowledge, tr. Geoff Benni ngton and Bri an Massumi , Theory and
Hi story of Literature. Vol . 1 0 (Manchester: Manchester Uni versi ty
Press , 1 (84) , p. 77. ' Di sturbi ng' aspects of Kant' s hi storico-political
texts are exposed i n The Dierend and L'Enthousiasme. Further, as has
al ready been mentioned, Lyotard' s l atest anal ysis of the sublime is
Lelors sur L'Analytiqllf du Subli me.
32 ' Notes sur Ie retour et Ie capi tal ' , DP, p. 293/ Semiotext(e) 3: 1 , p. 45. I have
placed ' cri ti que' where Lyot ard wrote ' deconstructi on' .
The Great Ephemeral Skin
Opening the Libidinal Suiace
Open the s o-called body and spread out all its surfaces: not only the
skin with each of its folds, wrinkles, scars, with its great velvety
planes, and contiguous t o that, the scal p and its mane of hair, the
tender pubic fur, nipples, nails, hard transparent skin under the heel,
the light frill s of the eyelids, set with l ashes - but open and spread,
expose the labia maj ora, s o also the labia minora with their blue
network bathed in mucus, dilate the diaphragm of the anal
sphincter, l ongitudinally cut and fatten out the black conduit of the
rectum, then the colon, then the caecum, now a ribbon with its
surface all striated and polluted with shit; as though your dress
maker' s scissors were opening the leg of an old pair of trousers, go
on, expose the small intestines' alleged interior, the j ejunum, the
ileum, the duodenum, or else, at the other end, undo the mouth at its
corners, pull out the tongue at its most distant roots and split it,
spread out the bats' wings of the palate and its damp basements,
open the trachea and make it the skeleton of a boat under
construction; armed with s calpels and tweezers, dismantle and l ay
out the bundles and bodies of the encephalon; and then the whole
network of veins and arteries, intact, on an immense mattress, and
then the lymphatic network, and the fne bony pieces of the wrist,
the ankle, take them apart and put them end to end with all the layers
of nerve tissue which surround the aqueous humours and the
cavernous body of the penis, and extract the great muscles, the great
dorsal nets, spread them out like s mooth sleeping dolphins. Work as
the sun does when you' re s unbathing or taking grass.
And this is not all, far from it : connected onto these lips, a second
mouth is necessary, a third, a great number of other mouths, vulvas,
The great ephemeral skin (La grande pellicule ephemere) : L yotard later refers to the
pellicule ' in the technical sense' , meaning 'film' ; I have chosen, in keeping with the
imagery here, to take slight liherties and translate pelliwle as 'skin' .
Libidinal Economy
nippl es. And adj oining the skin of the fngertips , scraped by the
nail s, perhaps there shoul d be huge silken beaches of skin, taken
from the inside of the thi ghs, the base of the neck, or from the
strings of a guitar. And against the pal m, al l l atticed with nerves , and
creased l i ke a yellowed l eaC set potter' s clays, or even hard wooden
handles encrusted with jewel s, or a steering wheel , or a drifter' s sail
arc perhaps requi red. Don' t forget to add to the tongue and al l the
pieces of the vocal apparatus, all the sounds of which they arc
capable, and moreover, the whol e sel ective network of sounds , that
i s, the phonol ogical system, for this too bel ongs to the libidinal
' body' , like col ours that must be added to reti nas, like certain
particles to the epidermi s, l ike some particul arl y favoured smells to
the nasal cavities , l i ke preferred words and syntaxes to the mouths
whi ch utter them and to the hands whi ch write them. I t i s not
enough, you sec, to say, l ike Bel l mer, that the fol d in the armpi t of
t he chil d, dreami l y intent, her el bow on the tabl e and chin in her
hand, could (llmt as [ !aloir pour) the fol ds of her groi n, or even as the
juncture of the lips of her sex. The question of ' counting as ' , don' t
urge us to ask it, far l ess to resol ve i t. I t is not a part of the body, of
what body? - the organic body, organized wi th survival as i ts goal
against what excites it to death, assured agai nst riot and agi tation -
not a part which comes to be substituted for another part, l i ke, for
exampl e, in the case of this l i ttl e girl , the feshiness of the arm for
that of the thighs and its faint fol d for the vaginal sl i t; it is not this
displacement of parts, recognizabl e i n the organic body of political
economy (itself initially assembl ed from differentiated and appro
pri ated parts , the latter never being without the former) , that we
frst need to consider. Such dlspiacement , whose function is
representation, substitution, presupposes a bodil y unity, upon
which i t is inscribed through transgressi on. There is no need to begin
wi th transgressi on, we must go i mmediately to the very limits of
cruel ty, perform the dissection of pol ymorphous perversi on,
spread out the immense membrane of the l ibidinal ' body' which is
quite different to a frame. I t is made from the most heterogeneous
textures , bone, epitheli um, sheets to write on, charged atmospheres ,
swords, gl ass cases, peopl es, grasses , canvases to paint. All these
zones are j oined end to end i n a band which has no back to it, a
Moebius band which interests us not because i t is closed, but because
i t is one-sided, a Moebian skin which, rather than being s mooth, is
on the contrary (is this topol ogi call y possible?) covered with
The Great Ephemeral skin 3
roughness, corners, creases, cavities which when it passes on the
' frst' turn will be cavities , but perhaps on the ' second', lumps . But as
for what turn the band is on, no-one knows nor wiII know, in the
eternal turn. The interminable band with variable geometry (for
nothing requires that an excavation remain concave, besides, it is
inevitably convex on the ' second' turn, provided it lasts) has not got
two sides, but only one, and therefore neither exterior nor interior.
I t is certainly not a libidinal theatre then, no density, intensities
running here and there, setting up, escaping, without ever being
imprisoned in the volume of the stage/auditorium. Theatricality
and representation, far from having to be taken as libidinal givens , a
fortiori metaphysical, result from a certain labour on the labyrinthine
and Moebian band, a labour which prints these particul ar folds and
twists, the effect of which is a box closed upon itself, fltering
impulses and allowing only those to appear on the stage which come
from what will come to be known as the exterior, satisfying the
conditions of interiority. The representative chamber is an energetic
dispositif To des cribe it and to follow its functioning, that's what
needs t o be done. No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of
political economy, which is the same thing) , since critique presup
poses and ceaselessly creates this very theatricality; rather be imide
and forget it, that's the position of the death drive, describe these
foldings and gluings, these energetic vections that establish the
theatrical cube with its six homogenous faces on the unique and
heterogeneous surface. To go from the pulsion to representation,
but without allowing oneself, in order to describe this implantation,
this sedentarization of the infuxes, without allowing oneself the
suspect facility of lack, the trick facility of an empty Alterity, of a
Zero whose silence is about to be shattered by the demand which
disturbs it (demand, already speech then? and addressed already, and
to something? yes, to this Other; and by something, which is
therefore already able to speak? yes, whether in gestures, tears,
fury, the infatuated suckling's torpor, interj ections, as they s ay) , so
that with this trick of the demand and the Zero's silence, well, it
remains only to inaugurate the theatre and power, and set them to
work, the theatre of power where satisfactions will dupe the desire
originating from this alleged lack itself Quite the contrary, it is
necessary, we will come to this later, to describe the business of the
cube starting with the opened and exposed band of the libidinal
body, according to the unique face without verso, the face which
hides nothing.
4 Libidinal Economy
We should not continue to confuse the closure of representation,
that sarcastic discovery, that sham dropping of the scales from our
eyes, by those thinkers who come and tell us: what is outside is really
inside, there is no outside, the exteriority of the theatre is just as
much its interiority - don't mix up this sad piece of news, this
cacangelism which is only the other side of evangelism, this
wretched news that the artefact-bearers running along their little
wall behind the backs of slaves who are bound and seated at the
bottom of their cave, do not even exist, or what amounts to the
same: that they themselves are only shadows in the cave of the sunlit
world, reduplication of sadness - don't go conflsing this crestfallen
message and this representation of an entirely closed theatre with
our Moebian-Iabyrinthine skin, single-sided patchwork of all the
organs (inorganic and disorganized) which the libido can traverse:
for however well it is closed upon itself, it too, like a good Moebius
band, is not at all closed in the sense of a volume, it is infnite, and
contrary to the representative cube, intensities run in it without
meeting a terminus, without ever crashing into the wall of an
absence, into a limit which would be the mark of a lack, there is
nothing the libido lacks in reality, nor does it lack regions to invest,
the slender and very dark fnger of her left hand which, in a
conversation, the young woman, anxious because she is afraid of
what she believes to be your erudition, pas ses over her eyebrow,
while in the other hand she pull s at a cigarette -here is a real region to
invest, one can die for it, one can give all one's organicity, one's
ordered body, one's functional arrangement of organs, one's
memory of organs, one's socio-professional status, one's supposed
past and one's supposed future, one' s agenda and one' s mtimate
theatre, one can feci like paying very dearly, exorbitantly, for this
fnger which is like an engraver's stylus and the whole orbital space,
cranial, vaginal, that it engenders around the eye. And it is not
because it is prohibited that it is invested, not because it is
represented, beyond a stage-set and because one hasn't the right to
climb onto the stage - but because one desires to climb up there and
seize it! The libido never fails to invest regions, and it doesn't invest
under the rubric of lack and appropriation. It invests without
condition. Condition is rule and knowledge. But the passage of
emotion on the hand stroking the eyelid, what does it matter if it
obeys rules, laws of emotion and other nonsense, what does it
matter what causes the woman's shyness before your supposed
The Great Ephemeral skin 5
pe rson age (obvi ou sly pate rn al . . . ), wh at d oe s all thi s m att er, thi s
h ot ch pot ch of w ord s whi ch will give an account and d o the
account s ? It i s the se w ord s, whi ch set ab out re pre se nting the ge st ure
and produ ce it in the e xte ri ority inte r n al t o all di scourse, and the l aw
th at th ey i nvent in orde r t o explain e xte ri ority and th e s pe ct acle, it i s
thei r ow n l aw as kn owledge .
F ar f rom t aking the g re at Ze ro as the ont ol ogi cal motif, i mposed
on de si re, f oreve r defe rring, re -pre senting and si mul ating eve ry
thing in an endle ss post ponement, we, li bidin al e conomi st s, af frm
th at thi s ze ro i s it self a fgu re, part of a powe rful dispositif wi se like
the g od of the Jew s and pale like the v oid of Lao-t zu, a con ce nt ra
t ory dispositif [disposit! de circonversioll] whe re, of cou rse, seve ral
li bidin al positi on s are af frmed t ogethe r,whi ch we make me rry in
di sint ri cating and de mon st rating with t act, i n di se ng aging with out
sh ock, like Japane se, like bl ade s enme shed i n a fe nci ng m at ch - and
we will sh own ot only th at it i s n ot ne ce ssary t o pass th rough it i n
orde r t o f oll ow the cou rse of i nte nsitie s on the l aby ri nth, but
m ore ove r th at the passag e th rough the ze ro i s it self a parti cul ar
li hidin al cou rse, th at the positi on of the Sig ni fe r or of the Othe r i s,
in the con cent rat ory dispositif it self an e nj oy able [ouissive] positi on,
th at the ' r ig ou r of the l aw' give s m ore th an one pe rson a h ard -on,
and th at thi s Nothing i s n ot a m atte r of ont ol ogi cal nece ssity, but of
a religi ou s f ant asy, li bidin al then, and as su ch, m ore ove r, quite
acce pt able, th at i s, if it we re n ot, al as, te rrori sti c and de onti c. We
mu st m odel ou rselve s an af frmative ide a of the Ze ro.
So we rebegin the critique of religi on, so we re begin the
de st ru cti on of piety, w e still seek athei sm, te rri bly intelligent, we
h ave unde rst ood th at the reint rodu cti on of the Ze ro, th at i s t o say,
of the n eg ative, in the e con omy of de si re, i s q uite s i mply th at of
account an cy in li bidin al matte rs; it i s politi cal e conomy, th at i s,
capit al, carried even i nt o the sphe re of passi ons, and with thi s
e conomy of capit al, ne ce ssarily, and yet ag ain, we h av e unde rst ood
th at it i s piety th at come s t o t ake it s course, th e pul si on al and
passi on ate dispositif of religi osity, i nasm uch as thi s i s i denti fed as the
Jorce ojlack, capit ali st religi osity, whi ch i s th at of m oney engende r
ing it self, causa sui. And the ref ore we ' are d oing politi cs', we de si re
th at the f orce of l ack coll apse, th at it dege ne rate, we l ove and we
w ant all th at af frm s th at thi s ze ro n ot only d oe s n ot engende r it self,
and n o m ore i s it engende red by an othe r f orce ( the f orce of l ab ou r,
Marx su ppose s, but on ce ag ain, e xactly as l acki ng, eff aced ' on the
Libidinal Ewnomy
surfa ce' of the so cial stage) , but most of all that questions of
engenderment are trapped , they bear within them knowledge and its
' ans wers' , all of whi ch strikes you as in credibly funny -no , we do
not subordinate our anti-religious , that is to say , anti- capitalist ,
politi cs to kno wing what the origin of meanin g, that is to say , what
surplus-value really is , not even to know that there really is no origin
a nd t hat it do cs not la ck any this or that , but is la ckin g as an origin ,
we want and do a dis membered , una ccountabl e politi cs , godless for
politi cians , and it is in this way that the critiqll c of religion whi ch we
reb egi n is no longer a critique at all , no longer re mains in the sphere
( that is to say , note , the theatri cal volume) of what it critiques , sin ce
criti qu e rests in turn on the for ce of la ck , and that critiqlll' is still
rel igi oll .
Pagan Thcatrics
We d esire the athcis m of the libidina l band , and if it cannot be
criti cal , that is to say religious , then it must be pa gan , that is to say
af fr mative. We have therefore to leap over two frontiers , that
whi ch separates the politi cal from the apoliti cal , but also that whi ch
separates the religious from the se cular , we have to say , for
exa mple , that there is perhaps more atheism ( af frmative) in that
religion of the Low Empire whi ch Augustine detested and ridi culed ,
this religion in whi ch fo r the least hi ccup , the least s candal , a
copulation without issue , a birthing , a pee , a military de cision , there
was a god , a goddess , s cveral gods and goddesses attendin the a ct ,
the patient and the agent , not to doub l e th cmin a pointl css spe cta cle ,
as Augustin c appeared to be l ieve , and no more to divest the alleged
sub je ct , impli cd in the a ct in question , of his responsibili t y , but
be cause in this way all these gestures , all these situations , in the life
( eve r sin ce) called the everyday ( as if there were another) on the one
hand were valued as intensities , could not de cay into ' utilities' , an d
on th c other hand did not have to be conne cted by a paradoxi cal ,
diale cti cal , a rbitrary , t crrorist link to an absent Law or Mcaning , but
on t he contrary , being self-suf fcient in th cir self-assertion , never
failed to be af frmed as singula rities. The divine was simply this self
assertion. Pe rhaps nothing is clos cr to what happens on the libidinal
band than the parody that ' theatri cal theology' makes of this popular
religion , half s cepti c, half stoi c, of late Rome. I t is in any case , even
if we are unjust in its favour , mu ch more atheist than the dis courses
The Great Ephemeral skill 7
of science, of politics and critique, of our contemporary liberators
of desire, women, children, Blacks, Indians, spaces and the
proletariat - liberators whom we love, and who, moreover, we too
Between theatrical theology and the Judaeo-Christian who today
still governs the critique of religion and political economy, there is
no opposition between a eulogy to the divine in the world and a
hymn to God at the expense of the world and ill abselltia, there is the
difference between two dispositi of pathos. This is where
Klossowski begins. On his advice, let us listen to Augustine
discussing the disjunction made by Varro between a fabulous or
mythic theology and a civil or political theology. The Christian
takes the example of the nuptial coupling:
And if Virginensis is among those present, to see to the untying
of the virgin's girdle, and Subigus, to see that the bride is subdued
to her husband, and Prema, to make sure that, when subdued, she
is pressed tight, to prevent her moving - if they are there, what is
the function of the goddess Pertunda? She should blush for
shame and take herself of Let the bridegroom have something
to do for himself It would be most improper for anyone but the
husband to do what her name implies. But it may be that she is
tolerated just because she is a goddess, not a god . .. But what am
I talking about? Priapus is there as well, that all-too-male divinity.
And the newly wed bride used to be told to sit on his phallus, that
monstrous obscenity, following the most honourable and most
religious custom of Roman matrons. So let our friends go and try
to use all their subtlety to make a distinction between 'civil' and
'fabulous' theology, between the city and the theatre, the temple
and the stage, priestly ceremonies and poets' verses - a supposed
distinction between decency and obscenity, truth and falsehood,
solemnity and frivolity, the serious and the farcical, between
what is to be desired and what is to be rejected. 1
And Augustine continues with a good apostle's argument: if
Varro works in such a way that the respective representa tions of the
divine on the theatrical stage and the social stage are after all
indiscernible, it is because already the certainty flls this pagan that
only natural theology is true, that of the philosophers, meaning
Plato, and therefore that of Augustine, meaning Christ. All these
simulacra, whether of actors or of priests, come to fall together on
Libidinal Econom
one side, on the si de of the fal se, of the i l l usory, of the i mpure; the
new limit is set up to separate al l that, whi ch i s appearance, from the
essential , which i s pure and veri di cal . What i s Augusti ne thereby
doing? He believes he has fnished wi th the theatre, he i nvents it,
reinvents i t after Pl ato and the others, restores what the adherents of
Subi gus, Prema and Pertunda had demol i shed, t hat i s to say t he
deval uati on of t he here and now, its subordination to the Ot her, he
reforms vol uminous theatri cal i ty and repeats the disposif(fby whi ch
t he auditori um is i gnored, i n favour of the stage and the stage
devoted to the representati on of an Exteri ori ty l ef behi nd at the
doors to the theatre, and then j udged non-theatrical once and for al l .
But popular, Varronian theatri cs di d not present t hi s di stri buti on
of functions i n i ts scenography at al l . I f the young bri degroom
provoked Vi rgi nensi s to stri p the gi rdl e from the young woman he
was about to defower, how can i t be i magi ned that it coul d be by
i ndecency, fool i shness and fal sehood? I s it not obvi ous that
Vi rgi nensi s is the name bore by the i mpati ence of the vi r desiderafls
and the vi !o, equal l y astoni shed and expectant, yet full of
amazement; al so the untyi ng of the gi rdl e i n order that i t be rel eased,
and superi mposed, the formati on of another knot i n the process of
being t i ed between her arms , her shoul ders, stomach, t hi ghs, her
introitus and her exitus? Vi rginensi s i s a cry forced out by al l t hi s at
once, a cry made of several i ncompossi bl e cries : she opens up, he
takes me, she resi sts, he s queezes , she get s l oose, he st art s and stops ,
s he obeys and commands, thi s coul d happen, happen i mpossi bl y,
suppl ication and order, oh the most powerful thi ng of all fowi ng
through them, do what desi re desi res, be i ts slave, connect, I give
you a name.
And for each connection, a di vi ne name, for each cry, intensity
and multiplication brought about by experiences both expected and
unexpected, a l ittl e god, a li ttle goddess, whi ch has the appearance of
being useless when one l ooks at i t wi th globulous, sad, Platonic
Christian eyes , whi ch in fact is of no use, but whi ch is a name for
the passage of emotions . Thus every experience gives ri se to a
di vi ni ty, every connection to an inundation of affects . But
Augustine passed into the camp of the great Zero, and so already
understands nothing of all this , he wants and calls for resi gnati on,
abandon the libidinal band, he says, onl y one thing merits affect, i t
i s my own Zero, my Other, i t i s through him t hat al l your emotions
come, you must gi ve them to him, go, leave them with him, render
The Great Ephemeral skin 9
them unto him, he will buy them back from you, the redeemer.
What docs the Christian want? To bring connection into disrepute
and almost to disconnect it: the next, what a joke of a word! The
other is put into the atmosphere of an affective distance, then
hrought much nearer again by a particular and paradoxical effort,
named caritas* because it is expensive (one gives without return, one
gives distances from a distance, it is the Zero who perceives them
and fructifies them). As a result of this disconnection, more
singularities. Caritas has an answer to everything. And that is why
everything which became the ancient god fnds itself devalued,
divided into its appearance, Virgincnsis, Priapus, fool, and into its
essence, the new god, the central Zero, the stage-director [metteur en
scene] .
In its appearance, delirium or madness, and in its essence, divine
intentions. Listen to the Father of the Church attempting to cleave
They want to derive the name Liber from Liberamentum (deliv
erance), on the ground that through his assistance males arc
'delivered' from semen in coition . . . Besides this they have
women, as well as wine, assigned to Liber, with a view to
provoking sexual desire, and in this way Bacchanalia were
celebrated with all their limitless insanity; Varro himself admits
that the Bacchants could not have performed their feats if their
minds had not been deranged (nisi mente cormota . . . ) . One thing
is certain; such performances would never have taken place in the
theatre; they had entertainment there, not raving madness. And
yet to have gods who delight in such entertainments is similar to a
kind of lunacy (simile juroris). 2
That is how the excellent Father prepares the generalized closure of
appearances under the name of symptoms. The devaluation of the
given functions fully, that is to say emptily: the movement of
forces becomes commotion of the spirit, and soon deme1ltia and
amentia. The pagans called it Dionysus and Bacchus, names of
inestimable singularity. And note Augustine' s paralogism, his
faltering way of paying tribute, nevertheless, to the force of their
theatrics: the Bacchants were prey to rage and madness; this cannot
be seen in the theatre where one only acts; although theatre plays are
' Caritas (L. ) : Christian love and charity; gift or payment; dearness, high price,
esteem, affection. - tn
1 Libidinal Economy
such that they coul d pl ease onl y the gods who were al so sei zed by
.finor. The i mplication is di rect, and pagan: .ror is divine, thc divine
i sIuror, as much in sacrcd rites as in stagc pl ays, thcrc is nothing that
docs not entcr the tracks of the i mpul ses, under a singul ar name, and
there is nothing that keeps itself outside this passagc. We catch
Augustine; herc in thc act of fol ding the l i bi di nal band onto itself i n
order to produce within it a vol ume and a cham ber of presence/
absence. I ntensities will need to be fil tered and i mparted to the active
voice of thc Zero, in order to balance all the accounts . And we sec
how he cannot s ucceed in doi ng this , how the diffrcnce between
pl ay and madness, si mul acrum and truth, clowning and seriousness,
i s not succesful l y set up.
This, this affrmation of the band, this banditi sm, is written in a
pai n which makes the hand trembl e. Let ' s lis ten to it, this is certainly
more i mportant than what i s sai d. This pain is not a sadness or a l oss
of force, but the opposi te. I t is stamped wi th an expen diture of
i mportant quantities of energy, empl oyed to make something
bearable which is not bearable, perhaps this same accumul ation of
forccs [uissances j . Cryi ng, yel l ing arc within the hand' s capabilities .
Figures - meanwhilc the hand continues to advance its pen through
Dionysus ' groves - fgures of l ife and death are accumul ated,
fgures which are this same energy fxed for a moment and for an
eternity, and which devour i t, mi s tres ses of wil d beasts . Egyptian
face, Negev hair, bistre-col oured androgyne, unmanageable girl
chi l d.
With this pain, perhaps at the centre, this new event, trul y awful :
this same Egyptian face, staring i nt o s pace with i ts i mpassive gaze, it
has become yesterday eveni ng, a biack mght. The fi gure of the
young woman has become the death mask of a young man the cops
had kept watch over and beaten up two years ago in an isl and prison
bordering the African seaboard, and whosc body had been buried
after his father refused, having exami ned i t, to admi t their version
of death by suicide. I t i s thi s same face, this same narrow forehead,
big nose, a l i ttle crooked, and the third great identifying feature of
the Abyssinian type, the same fneness of the jaw. And he s poke, al l
t he time, while she kept si l ent , he yiel ded, escaping to hi s deat h and
l ooking for it through foods of words, speaking l i ke a Negro,
multiplying the ambushes of words; but hi s speech was so soft and
i mperious that it was fol l owed by visible effects, just like physi cal
actions . Ifhis death could have expl oded as his words expl oded, into
The Great Ephemeral skin 1 1
palpable transformations, when he was his body! To make of his
death his active body again, transformer. The anagrams of his
nomen were Roma, Amor.
And this tension, above all diffculty and intolerance, is associated
with the incompossibility of all these simultaneous fgures. You
would need to be one hundred per cent Christian and stupid to think
that these Romans and N egros are libidinal idiots, innocents plunged
in debauchery. This sufering through excess is that of the
Bacchants, it proceeds from the incompossibility of fgures, of masks
which together occupy the same space-time and thereby reveal the
libidinal band; for such an incompossibility where several parts,
however diferent, of the alleged organic body, are afrmed at the
same time, or even, if you prefer, where sections of the psychic and
social apparatus which must only be afrmed separately or suc
cessively, are afrmed at the same time; it is unbearable. Is this
because it is the dissolution of unity, of the supposed synthesis?
What is engulfed in theatrical theology, for we who come long
afterwards, having centuries, almost two millennia of disfguring
traditions upheld by religion, religions, metaphysics, capital, is
identity. Is it possible that all intensity is sufering only because we
are religious, are clergy of the Zero? Even to say this is perhaps a
Our danger, we libidinal economists, lies in building a new
morality with this consolation, of proclaiming and broadcasting
that the libidinal band is good, that the circulation of afects is joyfl,
that the anonymity and the incompossibility of fgures are great and
free, that all pain is reactionary and conceals the poison of a
formation issuing from the great Zero - what I have just said. But it
is not an ethics, this or another, that is required. Perhaps we need an
ars vitae, young man, but then one in which we would be the artists
and not the propagators, the adventurers and not the theoreticians,
the hypothesizers and not the censors.
We do not even have to say: this great Zero, what crap! After all, it
is a fgure of desire, and from what position could we assume to
deny it this quality? In what other, no less terrorist Zero? One cannot
assume a position on the twisted, shock-ridden, electrifed laby
rinthine band. One' s got to get this into one' s head: the instantiation
of intensities on an original Nothing, on an Equilibrium, and the
folding back of complete parts onto the libidinal Moebian band, in
the form of a theatrical volume, does not proceed from an error,
1 2 Li bidinal Econom
from an illusion, from malice, from a counter-principle, but again
frol11 desire. One must realize that representing [ /a lIl ;se en representa
tion] is desire, putting on stage, i n a cage, i n prison, i nto a factory,
into a family, being boxed i n are desired, that domination and
excl usion arc desired; that extreme intensities arc instantiable i n these
assemblages too. That the black Pharoah face has died, that the
metamorphosis he was looking for had been the death that he was.
We must succeed in hearing that without any rejecti on, for it is
rejection, the exteriorization, which prolongs theatricality like a
shadow cast over the libidinal band. This rejection is necessarily
concomitant with the setting-up of a point of view on the Zero, on
the empty centre, the place where everything is supposed to be
visibl e and intelligible, the place of knowlcdge.
'['/1 m ill,\ ofthi' Bar
Thus there is the pain of i ncompossibility. Thi s pai n is much older
than the word incompossibility can i ndicate. This word could tend
to produce the belief that the origin of pain is logic, the vi olation of
the compossible, the simultaneous affrmation of the this and the
not-this. There is certainly a bit of suffering, which the most acute
mathematicians and logicians are well aware of, in these occupations
of spaces previously reputed to be exclusi ve and carefully dis
tinguished: one should recall the matter of imaginary numbers, of
fuzzy sets, of the logic of individuals. Same thing with the painters,
when Klee, for example, opens the perspectivist cube onto the
plastic support as one, as ten dislocated boxes presented together
from fve or six points of view. A bi t of suffering, but it is not,
however, this pai n, it is like i ts negati ve, i t is this pai n announced a
contrario i n the spaces of non-pai n. Exactly where the concept had
produced the strict delimitation of the this and the not-this, had
crossed the limit, had thus determined a zone of poi nts that were
neither this nor not-this, neutralized points forming a frontier and
forbidding confusion, a new ' labour' (as they say ) of the concept
displaces this series of points, unbound and rebound in another way,
provoking the panic of a square negative, of a trivalent logic, or, i n
Lesnievski's hypothesis, the truth of a proposition like t he edge ojthe
book is the book.
Brief panic, one settles down again , one sedentarizes in another
way, at least when we are in the grip of an obsession with the great
The Great Ephemeral skill 13
Zero, when, at any cos t , one wants to produce a discourse of so
called knowledge, when therefore one never ceases, after all these
disturbances, to proclaim that now, this is it, one holds the true
dispositif of the logic of propositions , of the theory of numbers , of
whatever. The true, that is to say what the great Zero itself
produces , and assumes. One soon stops nomadizing, one occupies
and cultivates the earth, under the security of the True. But these
disfgurations rarely take place, thank god, even today's scientis ts
are s tarting out on the road to pain, letting their little sufferings
subside, their little scandals, the petty di alectic and the wretched
' labour of the concept'. They know that this is deception itself, that
what works is not the concept , that the concept i s capital which
pretends to work, but which determines the conditions of labour,
delimits the outsides and insides , the authorized and the prohibited,
selects and valorizes, invests, realizes, that the concept i s trade, but
that the movement, the strength of trade i s not the concept, this
wretched little suffering of the academic radical-socialis t .
Our great mathematicians, those whom we love, our brothers i n
pain and j oy, know very well that i t i s not even correct, that it is
futile and almost base to say with a last smil e: yes, all that we do is
only a game, yes we quite understand that there is only the great
Zero and that one can only turn ahout it, like a vast spectacle. They
know as well as we do that it is Ilot at all a question of a game, that one
never leaves the sham seriousness of the concept for the fac-simile
of the game. Roman pain and j oy, pagan and stoic, are not games .
The stage plays that Augustine despises (and adores) are in no way
simulacra of another reality, the stage masks could not be the
popular and political version of serious divinity; the Nothing with
which the philosophers and priests have furnished us as the
maximum and optimum of conciousness or know ledge or wi sdom,
and thanks to which the vivacious and deadly intensities that shoot
acros s us shall be discredited, this Nothing, it is their desire that
produces it, it is not it that produces their desire. These intensi ties do
not in any way proceed from illusions of changing investment on
the immobile circle that surrounds the Nothing; but on the contrary,
they can engender this as the centre of a concentratory di sposition
also called the proper body, ego, society, universe, capital, the good
lord. The thought of the game, of the great Game, game of desire
and game of the world, i s st ill a little sad thought, that is to say, a
thought. It remains entirely instantiated on the Zero, and from there
1 4 Li bidinal Econom
it makes this effort, supreme for thought, to say to i tsel f: thi s, al l
that happens on the peri phery, on the ci rcl e, i s nothi ng but the transit
of i ntensities, tur and eternal retur; i t says to itsel f: I am nothing
but thought, that is, the Nothi ng and nothi ng, what i s turs around
outside, and so, to be, I have onl y to pl ace mysel f as well on the
circumference, turn with the i ntensiti es , act as iF I l oved, suffered,
l aughed, ran, fucked, sl ept, shat and pi ssed, I , thought. May thi s
supreme effort of thought di e, such i s our wi sh as l i bi di nal
economi sts.
The pai n of incompossi bi l i ty does not refer to a delimiting,
sel ective, orientating zero. Thought does not precede it. More often
than not, what is called thought i s what escapes it, i s produced as a
way out of i t . The dispositiI of confl1ement, that is to say of
del i mitation and concepti on, whi ch wil l produce the exteri or and the
i nteri or, which wi ll encl ose the extension of the concept, which will
dene places (of art, of culture, of producti on, of pol i ti cs, of
sexual i t y) , this dispositi( wi th i ts zero can onl y be engendered by
di sintensi fcatiOl ) .
The operator of di si ntensi fcati on is excl usi on: either thi s, or not
thi s . Not both. The di sj uncti ve bar. Every concept i s therefore
concomitant with negati on, exteriorization. It is this exteriorization
of the not-this that will give rise to theatricization: the outside ' wi l l
have t o' be coll quered, the concept ' wi l l wil l ' its own extension, to
master what i t had left at the gates of its terri tory, it wi l l set of for
war and for l abour with Hegel , as previ ousl y with Augustine,
towards the outside, i n order to annex i t. In real ity it i s pushed into
this not only by the demon of confusi on, by synchreti sm, by the
jouissance of overthrovvin
, by the quest for iHlensiiies , but by fight
i n the face of this pain of inc om possi bi l i ty that we are tal ki ng about.
What anguish in these limits , in these devaluations fol l owed by
exclusions! How they are l oved, these exteriorities ! Hence voyages,
ethnology, psychiatry, pediatrics , pedagogy, the l ove of the
excluded: enter, beautiful Negresses, charming Indians, enigmatic
Ori ental s, dreamers, children, enter my work and the spaces of my
concepts . All this is theatre; i t i s the white innocence of the West in
expansion, base cannibal istic i mperial i sm.
The little suffering i s onl y t he di spl acement of the disj unctive
bar. The little suffering carried to the second degree, i s the
consciousness that this di spl acement is the rul e, that there is always
di splacement. Little suffering that attains i ts acme i n t he thought of
The Great Ephemeral skin 1 5
hor and of difrence [ecartJ . But the pain we speak of is in no
way bound to the dis
lacement of the bar of the concept. This pain
is not the de
ression that follows from the position of having one
foot here and one foot there, one foot inside and one foot outside,
of being divided. This
ain has no relation to the little suffering of
castration, which is the suffering of the concept, fssure and
disfguration ceaselessly deferred. Instead, this is how to imagine it,
erfumed Mane of hair.
Take this bar which se
arates the this from the not-this. That is to
say any segment at all. Place it in a neutral space, say three
dimensional to facilitate the imagination's highly crude intuition.
Subj ect it to a movement of rotation around a point belonging to
this segment, a movement yielding the following three
the rotation takes
lace on all the axes without exclusion, the central
point is itself dis
laced over the segment in an aleatory way, fnally it
is equally dis
laced in the supposed neutral space. Thus a surface is
engendered, which is nothing other than the labyrinthine libidinal
band which was in question: this surface always has as its breadth the
length of the segment, etc. But to describe the properties of the
band is not the im
ortant thing. This segment which ' passes over'
the whole landscape of 'cor
oreal' surfaces joined end to end as has
been said (which in fact engenders this landscape point by
oint in the
un gras
able time of its
assage), the more quickly it turns on itself,
the more energy it employs and expends, and heats the travelled
zone. This passage may be absolutely immobile, the black sun of so
called hysterical conversions, or the so-called obsessional or paranoiac
fxations, or conversely flminating or ephemeral ideas of art, of
science, of love. The ice that it leaves behind it is in proportion to the
energy sucked u
: extremely cold intensities. And every intensity,
scorching or remote, is always this and not-this, not at all through the
effect of castration, of repression, of ambivalence, of tragedy due
to the great Zero, but because intensity
ertains to an asynthetic
movement, more or less com
lex, but in any event so rapid that the
surface engendered by it is, at each of its points, at the same time this
and not-this. Of no
oint, of no region, however small, can one say
what either is, because this region or this point has not only already
peared when one claims to s
eak of it, but, in the singular or
oral instant of intense passage, either the point or the region
has been invested in from both sides at once.
When one says at the same time, one says both together (or n
together) , but one also says one at a time, in the singularity of the
Lihidinal lconomy
til l l c, della Fo/ta . Only onc tur, full of drifing affects. Not a
I l l atter of separation, but on the contrary, of movement , of
displaceability on the spot . It is even neccssary to imagine the
Ill onoface band as produced by this aleatory rotation, this mad
segment acting as a matrix whose properties never stop changing
and so unravelling the unpredictable rihbon of lihidinal marks in its
' printout' I sortiel . But even this image needs to be corrected for it is
moddled on :n industri:l machine, for example a wire drawing
machine or a rolling mill, and with this modd, it implies the
category of :n accumulation, of a stock-piling, of a material
I l l emory, and, what amounts to the same, of a diachrony. For
example, you could, I think, modify in an incessant and arhitrary
wav the norlls of extrusion or rolling, and you would still obtain
bars or wires with necessarily variable properties . The fact remains
that they rel l / ai l l , that the marks of variations arc inscribed on these
obj ects and transform them into monuments of a past activity, into
means of determining :n activity to come, they thus open the space
of :n upstream and a downst ream in production, of : cUllulative
diachronic time, of a capitalizing history. And beware, because with
the instrument, the machine, you arc already right in the zero. When
the whirls of the disjunctive segment in its libidinal journey, being
singular, produce no mcmory, this segment only ever being where it
is in an ungraspable time, a tense, and thercforc what was 'pre
viously' joumeyed through does not cxist : accphalia, : time of the
Duplicity ojSigns
See at once, grey-eyed Unkind One, where, once again, we intend
to break off, wc libidinal economists : we will no longer speak of
su,aces of inscription (exccpt inadvcrtently, count on it) , of regions to
invest, and other similar things . We are suspicious of the separation
al lowed betwcen inscription and its site. It is necessary (very
different, Nietzsche says , this it is necessary from the you must) , it is
necessary that we strengthen our imagination, our palpative poten
tial [ui ssance] until - rather than to think, we are not thinkers - until
we forge the idea of an intensity which far from setting itself up on
a producer-body, determines it; the idea of a passagc over nothing,
which produces , onc instant beyond countable time, thc being of its
proper passing, its passage (speaking like some others , but in quite
The Great Ephemeral skin 1 7
another way). Therefore not a surface frst, then a wnt1g or
inscription over it. But the libidinal skin of which, cer the event, one
will be able to say that it is made up of a patchwork of organs, of
clements from organic and social bodies, the libidinal skin initially
like the track of intensities, ephemeral work, useless like a jet trail in
the thin air at an altitude ofl0, 000, with the exception that it be, as
opposed to the trail, completely heterogeneous. But like it, being at
the same time the surface crossed and the crossing. You will say:
'crossed' is a past, it is not the passage which produces the skin, but
the past of the passage, not the intensity, but what it will have been
[son apres coup]; and the surface, the libidinal skin is thus already a
memory of intensities, a capitalization, a localization of their
passages, there is the intensity and what remains of it, and your
comparison doesn't count since there is a caput, * a surface of
inscription, a register, when its function was to render the acephalus
I see you, Unkind One, smiling at the hoax played on me by the
words of knowledge and capital, before I had even begun to speak.
Let us love this farce, let us not fear it, let us say yes each time it
requires us to (and it will require us to, and require us again) say what
we have to say as libidinal economists, this farce will stuff our
words with its old hash of nihilist sadness. Between the libidinal skin
and a register of inscription, confusion will always be possible, as
between Christ and the Antichrist, between matter and anti-matter.
We haven't the power, thank god, to dissociate them, to isolate a
region, precisely, a domain, precisely! which would be a good
representation, precisely, of the libidinal band and would escape the
management of the concept, its hard scepticism and its nihilism.
There is no ajrmative region, words which cancel each other out.
Freud said, marvellously: the death drives work in silence in the
uproar of Eros. Eros and the death drives, incompossiblcs, are
indissociable. And so it is, all things being equal, for the passage of
intensities and the surface of inscription. For this operates like
memory, preserving the passage, it is that by means of which
effervescence is recorded and conserved, it is the means of
transforming the singular sign of nothing, which is intensity, into
terms of presence/absence, the position, and thereby the value, of
which will be assigned as the presence/absence of other terms,
'Caput (L): a freeman as opposed to a slave; the head, the seat of the intellect; source
(of a river); origin, beginning in time. - "I
IH Li bidinal F((nlom},
functioning as their recording, their place in a form, Gestalt, or
composition. The surface of inscription is then the means of
recording. And from the means of recording to the means of
production there is but one thing to do, which the despot accom
plishes, as Oeleuze says, which the great Gestaltist accomplishes. We
well know that this surface is at the same time, indiscernibly, the
lihidinal skin 'engendered' by the mad bar and the wise fat sheet of
the account book. At the same time the juxtaposition of singular
effects named Sarah, Birgit, Paul, faith, the left eye, the cold, hard
neck, juxtaposition of punctual intensities, never assembled as a
bod y, merely adjoined in the impossible idea of the pulsional band,
\hich cannot be one surface of inscription, but rather sCl'erai
explosions, not even necessarily successive, ephemeral explosions
of libidinal intensities - therefore at the same time this, and the
index-sheet where, in the form of lists, of words, of registery
OflCC" of notebooks, of indexes, under the double law of
paradigm and syntagm, of the column and the line, where what
rcmains of intensity is recorded, its tracc, its writing.
There is the farce that words play with us, that intensities play
with lIS and that our passion itself will play with us from one end to
the other of this book: this ft of passion, reader, Unkind one, will
reach vou at second hand, reported, this sheet on which I write and
which is in one moment, in bewilderment and impatience, a
woman's skin caressed or the sheet of water in which I lovingly
swim, this sheet, you receive it printed, the same thing repeated,
reduplicated, you receive a recording sheet. Words burning the
point of the pen, whipped like an inert herd by this point, making
them run and trappmg the most noble, the fastest, the strongest
amongst them, in fight, you receive them as a lexicologist. And all
the comparisons which may come to mind, they are damned in
advance by the accumulation (cum) which they comprise and which
subject them to procedures of weighing, thought, commen
surability, good for the register and accountability, for ever
incapable of yielding intensity in its euent.
Do you believe that the gloomy declaration of this difring
[diferer] of writing dismays and depresses us? It interests us acutely
and giyes lS new impetus. If there is a secret, it is this, its own: how
does the impossible juxtaposition of intense singularities give way
to the register and recording? How does the difring-displace
ment, beyond space-time, of the affective singularity give space
The Great Ephemeral skin 19
and time to multiplici ty, then to generality, then to universalit y, in
the concept, in the frozen whole of the register, how does it give
space-time to the differing-composition or co-placing? How does
Jorce [uissance] give rise to power [ouvoirJ? How does searing
affrmation become circumscribed around a zero which, inscribing
it, annihilates it and assigns it meaning?
This is our great interest ( political interest amongst others, since
this is the entire political question) . And the hows that we address to
it are not whys. The why is galling, nostalgic, treacherous, always
nihilistic. We do not deny the reality, libidinal of course, of this zero,
of this register, we haven't the least intention of devaluing it ex
hypothesi, to start saying: this zero is an evil despot, t his zero
represses us, this is what it is made for, etc. , all ressentiments which
are often used as a political means and which we take no part in.
Once again, what interests us: the sign in the Klossowskian-Roman
sense of Subigus and of Pertunda, the singular tensor with its mad
multiplicity of directions, not contemplating its disintrication from
the ' bad' nihilist sign, from Pl ato right up to Peirce and Saussure,
with a view t o placing it apart in a good place where one would be at
last in the shelter of the great semiotic-semiotician's Zero, not
therefore to dissociate and exteriorize it in relation to the bad sign, or
- not even - to exteriorize the l atter in relation to the former, to
separate them and so ourselves become the Just, the Blessed, Sages,
Equals, Brothers,
omrades; no, none of these settlements interests
us, rather this: to become suffcientl y refned where we are, in order
to feel, in the baseness of exchangeable signs, the unrepeatable
singularities of the passages of affect, suffciently discri minatory
and - I will say it as a provocation - suffciently Jesuitical t o seize, in
the general movement of smoothing down and inscription on this
Zero of capital, of the Signifer, the this-sides or the beyonds of this
movement, the immohilities or the exci tations which trail and
betray this movement, t o love inscription not because it communi
cates and contains, but through what its production necessitates, not
because it channels, but because it drifts.
There is our problem, politi cal and otherwise, there, at least, is its
position: theatricality without reference, masks revealing no face,
unless it is a mask in its turn, Names (beware the capital letter!) from
a history whi ch is not societies' memories, names whi ch would be
their amnesia - but always inseparable from this excess of the
Apollinian appearance, the Dionysus inseparable from the great
2() Libidilwl Ewnomy
light, not as its oppositt but as its nuckar night, the singularity
always placed in tht paranoiac order of tht universal. And in this
sense, it is not a revolution we need, it is one revolution, and one,
and one more . . . plmaflcllf revolution if you like, but on condition
that this word ctase to denote continuity and mean: we will never be
sufciently refned, the (libidinal) world will always be too bcaut!JI,
there will alwa ys Ix too great an excess of mute vibrant trembling in
the most ordinary nonstnse or depression, we will never stop
becoming disciples of its affects, the routes of the affects
ceaselessly crossing and recrossing the signs of representation and
tracing the most unheard oC the most audacious, the most
disconcerting itineraries on them. And on condition that pemnzt
also mean: we do not setk to produce a cartography, a memory, a
regi ster of our dfrts at refinement, an organization, a party of the
refIned, an anti-society, a school for a framework of affects, an
apparatus of refnement's officials, the perl11anenct in question is
not something that persists throughout a time identical to itself and
fr0111 which could be distilled out of acquisitions, attainments,
experiments and results, a knowledge in matters of intensities, on
the contrary, all will be gradually lost (of what?), and will be so lost
that in one sense we will never be able to will continually, to will in
the sense of a sustained resolution, this refnement in the (dispossess
ing) seizures of signs, because power [uissance 1 (Macht) cannot be
willed (Willkur), because desire cannot be assumed, accepted,
understood, locked up in names = nomenclatured, because these
intensities we desire horrify us, because we fee them, because we
forget them. And it is 11 Just such a way that there is a different
revolution in each libidinal event, different to all others, incompar
able (and always already comparable and still compared, as in the
very words I have just employed); and no permanence at all: in
fecingjouissance-death, we meet it head on, unrecognizable, imme
diately recognized, Imheimlich because heimisch, different, not willed
by a deliberate decision, on the contrary avoided, fled from in panic
and nostalgic terror, and therefore truly desired (Wille), unassum
able. It will have to be forgotten every time, because it is unbearable,
and then this forgetting means that it will be 'willed' in the sense of
the Wille, produces displacement, the voyage of intensities, their
return beyond identity. Our politics is of fight, primarily, like our
The Great Ephemeral skin
Deduction oj the Voluminous Body
Caress ranging over the neck: place where the blouse stops, where
the skin begins, or indeed the inverse, frontier or fssure? No, it is
rather the region of transmutation from one skin into a different
skin. The dark, fimsy cotton is a skin. - Elbow lodged like liquid in
the palm, middle fnger revolving and lightly effacing fold of the
blue and white small of the arm. A fssure here again? No, zone of
passage, of a change of surfaces. What is expressed in these regions?
It is stupid to reduce them to a symbolism of the feminine sex. Are
they imaginary entries, entries to the imaginary? The beginning of
the theatre, the entry to the theatre, the theatricization of the
libidinal surface? - No, at the outset one passes in front of the entry
without going in, the long finger effaces the frst illusion, that there
is a fssure, thus an inside if it is penetrated. Yes, [you] are not a
theatre in which my part will play, [you] arc not a limit [oui, n 'es pas
un theatre dans lequel entre jouer ma piece, n'es pas une limite], penis
sheathed in vagina is will be was a particular case of an incessant,
maniacal and totally unforeseeable assemblage of parts of the great
monoface skin. Force is amassed on these lines of contact which,
thanks to its abundant investment, spread into new surfaces of so
called inscription. This afux is the event. - Meanwhile, beneath the
sleeve the hand cups the thoughtlessly folded elbow (by the action
of this hand itself), the gaze remains lost, but hecomes dark and
starts to look 'within'. This 'within' is this : the force which was
lodged in the eyes escapes them and runs towards the small of the
arm. Will this be to undo this contact with the digital skin, or to dash
at and cross it? A third, busy speaking to him, sees nothing.
When, how docs the ribbon start to become voluminous? Is it
language which through its referential function gives it density and
the presence of absence? Is it the eye that hollows surfaces into
versos and immediately behind them, the continuity of their rectos?
But what is 'language', what is 'the eye'? Entities of thought,
concepts? What function can they have? So-called 'perverse' poly
morphism, really simply diverse, is endlessly displaced from
infancy over a surface without holes. There arc no holes, only
invaginations of surfaces. That is why when we cut open, we
affrm only that which is, the vast coiled skin, where slits are not
entries, wounds, gashes, openings, but the same surface following
its course after a detour in the form of a pocket, front folded back
22 Li bidillal Econom
almost against itself, as in Stalingrad. Diverse polymorphism i s
aware that there is no hole, no interior, no sanctuary to respect. ' The
child', thi s wester phantasm, the child, that is to say desire, i s
energeti c, economic, non-representative.
Is it absence, rupture or breakage or los s or the disconnection of an
ex-part of the li bidinal skin which will give rise to a voluminous
place, to the theatre, to the substitute sign, to interiority put in the
place of rxteriority. of the thing lost) Thi s is what Freud says in
JCIlseils4 with reference to his grandson. Such would be the origin of
the theatre; the child had, in his pulsional skin [pclliwlc], just as one
of the adjoining fragments makes this little skin [prau 1 infnite, his
OWll theatre with hi s mother, the nipple on the tongue between his
li ps. the warm suppleness of the large breast under his blind fngers,
his neck connected to her by the fesh of his shoulder, his eyes kept
ti ght shut in pleasure, haughtily seeking his pleasure from her, in
short, a very good multiple connection, diverse-perverse, he shits in
his bed in the midst of sucking, - and that is how he 'loses' his
mother, let's rather say: that thi s connection i s undone, immense
pain through lack, says Freud, unbearable distress, massi ve afux
from the drives to the outlet points, but everywhere impasses, gates
shut, switches disconnected, breakdowns, stases, everything i s
going to explode. The theatre i s set up, mama wi l l be the bobbin, her
l oss will be repeated, '0-0-0-0' - ' gone' ! 'da' - 'there she i s ' ! the distress
will be bound, to fnd a way out for these menacing masses of
di splaceable energy that rumble at the threshold of the body, these
gates will be opened onto its substitute, the bobbin theatre.
Pain, then, inaugurates the theatre, intensi ty insofar as it is deadly,
freud says. But note: the nipple, the swelling breast, the shoulder,
arm and eyes, already had to be instantiated on a person, a unity, the
mother, in order that thi s present-absent bobbin could take her
place, substitute itself for her. Then the child could in fact suffer
fom the loss of an instance, but then he would no longer be the
polymorphous perversity which interests us, Freud and us. There i s
the possibility of a pain through lack, even the possibility of an
absence, only because it had been previously supposed that there was
the presence of a mother, of someOHC. And this constitutes a petitio
principii, a formal vice without weight for people like us whose
discourse makes no claim to consi stency, refusing to buy it when an
explanation i s attempted: as soon as there is someone, an instance
which passes for the place of totalization, the unifcation of several
The Great Ephemeral skin 23
singularities, of several libidinal intensities, one is already in the
great Zero, one is already in the negative; and one is already in
distress, since this instance onto which these singular jouissance
deaths will be beaten down, the mother or whatever equivalent, is
on the one hand never given, there is never a connection onto her,
there are only scraps, partial metamorphoses, and thus nostalgia
begins with the production of this unitary instance; and on the other
hand, such an instance devalues, annihilates, inevitably cleaves the
intense signs that arc libidinal commutations, disaffects the adjoin
ing lips-tongue-nipple, the connections neck-shoulder, fngers
breast, since instead of being passages of abundant intensity, these
metamorphoses become metaphors of an impossible coupling,
these commutations just so many allusions to an elusive ability to
enjoy [ouvoir-jouir], these incomparable, fercely singular signs just
so many common, universal signs of a lost origin.
Our question is: who suffers in pain? Freud's response is: the
child, thus an already constituted subject, formed in the object
mother's gaze, in symmetry with her, already, then, there is the
specular partition between them, already the auditorium-side and
the stageside, already the theatre; and the theatre the child
constructs with the edge of his bed as the footlights, and the thread
attached to the bobbin as curtain and scenery, governs entries and
exits, this prosthesis-theatre is of the same type as that already
hollowed out within him, it is the replica in 'exteriority' of the
hollow volume in which the two poles of his own body and that of
his mother, theatrical counterparts, non-existent poles, capture,
secure in their feld, dominate every event of the libidinal band. Pain
as caesura, as fssure, split and disconnection, only hurts unitary
totality. In conceiving pain as the motor of theatricality, Freud gives
it the metaphysical consistency of the negative, he is therefore a
victim of that theatricality, since only representation of a unitarist
calling is hurt by fssure and disconnection, only through the already
proper, proprietary body is loss felt as aggression, only for an
already organized conciousness is death a horror. If one wants to
explain the birth of the theatre, its secret must not be sought in the
pain of a loss, for there is loss only for a memory, and, the said
polymorphous perversion being acephallic, loss is or is not for it an
occasion of pleasure-pain, that is all. Not even suffering on the one
hand, pleasure on the other: this dichotomy belongs to the order of
the organic body, of the supposed unifed instance, it requires the
24 Li bidinal Econom
labour of decision, of Vemeinung, which satisfes the pleasure
principle in spitting out what harms and admitting onl y that which
docs good; the pleasure principle being just as much the reality
principle since to spit out is to separate the painful, expelled into
exteriority, and the pleasurable, conserved in interiority. We must
sweep aside all these wonderful little fables which presuppose what
they are intended to explain, the formation of the duality, of the
su bstitute sign, of the interior theatre redoubling an exterior reality
(and reciprocally) and therefore also the formation of the caesura,
wound, fssure which made their way to the interior; all these fables,
in jCl/seits, in Die Vemeimmg5 arc already placed in the duality of the
Zero (of the One, of the proper person, object or subject, of the
Ego ... ) and of intensity (ofjouissa//ce, of pain, of both together).
It is necessary that the attempt be made to describe the circumscrip
tion of a theatre where there had been fat skin, affrmatively,
energetically, without presupposing lack, when this would be under
the name of pain.
Now imagine this, ermine gash. The turing bar slackens its pace,
the mad, aleatory movement which engenders the libidinal band is
sufficiently checked so that the this and the not-this, confused by its
extremely high speed in all the points of the feld, now distinct, are
sometimes the this, sometimes the not-this, here it is, now it's gone,
here it is, Jortlda. The bar becomes a frontier, not to be crossed on
pain of confusion, sin against the concept, transgression, stupidity,
madness, primitive thought. The bar becomes a boundary, the
boundary of a stage: over there the not-this, here the this. End of
dissimulation, beginning of value, and of ambivalence. For to go
from the not-this to the this, It will now be necessary to pay: it will
cost a great deal to have the not-this over there. To pay to enter the
over there, to get on stage. To have: the manner of being what one is
not, prosthesis which supposes negation. And time also begins with
this abatement: now this, now that, repetition, and so also memory,
synthesis of the now, of the no longer, of the already more, always
to be renewed since the temporal poles are 'from now on' held in
exteriority, in rclation to each other, at the same time that they arc
co-posed, composed on either side of what separates them. Mon
tage and the stage and narrative time.
What is this abatement? A cooling? A lowering of intensity? A
withdrawal of investment? Yes, all that. Infuxes are displaced, the
bar will turn 'further off, it is not the mother which the child loses,
The Great Ephemeral skin 25
it is the lips-nipple connection which now appears as a connection,
from now on as a paradoxical juncture of two zones, of a this and a
not-this, when this was never a synthesis, but an intense libidinal
zone. The child loses nothing, he gains a mother, and the mother a
child, the this and the not-this are put in place under the name of
complementarities whereas the movement of the segment, by slowing
down, sediments them, centrifuges them. The concept, time,
negation, ambivalence, come with the weakening of intensities.
Representation supposes that the stars are not dead, but indifferent:
de-siderium, the constellations do not shatter, * nostalgic desire, the
wish, the Wunsch, begins with the decline of libidinal economy.
Duplicity of the Two Pulsional Principles
Why does the movement of the bar slow down? We know nothing
of this, there is no answering the question why, which implies
precisely nihilism and thought. We turn this question around, we
say: when it is turning intensely, no why; your why itself results
from it turning less strenuously, it is recuperative and nostalgic. The
movement of the bar slows down because, and then this because . . . is
intensifed. Then the not-this will start to be advanced to account for
the this. Then the space of the nihilism of reasons is opened up. (For
example, those I have just given?)
Thus the theatre comes with the concept. The bar stops turning;
on the contrary, it circumscribes. The intense sign which engenders
the libidinal body abandons this vast Moebian skin to the signifca
tive sign, the singularity of a passage or a voyage of affects is
herded, closed up into a communicable trace. Whether this trace is
communicable, or whether this sign is amenable to systematization,
or whether the opposition which conceals (but in what space-time?)
the irrelevant difference is permanent, all this refers to the duplicity
of signs, already noted. But this deserves a much more refned
analysis. First, that means that there is no notable difference
between a libidinal formation and a discursive formation, insofar as
they are both formations, Gestaltungen. A libidinal dispositif consid
ered, precisely, as a stabilization and even a stasis or group of
'DI-sideriHm: IIS sidera >Ie sidhent pas.. : dcsideril"n (L.): petition, sense of loss,
longing, want; sidera (L.): constellations, skies, destinies. Lyotard's splitting of
de-siderium effectively means a 'de-shattering', the 'indiference' of the
stars/constellations to death, and the suspension constitutive of the wish. - tt
26 Lihidinal Econom
energetic stases, is, examined formally, a structure. Conversely,
what is essential to a structure, when it is approached in economic
terms, is that its fxity or consistency, which allows spatio-temporal
maintenance of identical denominations between a this and a not
this, work on pulsional movement as would dams, sluices and
channnels. One can, therefore, step twice, and even innumerable
times, into the same river, if the river is located by its slope, its
banks, its direction, its fow, as it is by any discriminating mind
body; but one never steps twice into the same river, quite simply
because there is 10 rivcr, that is what is said by the madman, lover of
singularities, be his name Proust, Stere, Pascal, Nietzsche, Joyce, a
madman determined to judge a given swim as rmexchancable for any
other, ill spite of its generic name, a madman ready to want a proper
name, a divine name, for each intensity, and thus to die with each of
them, to lose even his memory (river-bed and course), and certainly
his own identity. Madness of pathos; but recognize, Unkind one,
back to back with this madness, that of the structuralist, who made
himself incapable of hearing, in the silence, the crackling masses of
fux which circulate in the system, and which are, however, the 'fnal
caust of their operativity.
This confusion of formations, Gestaltungen, which render libidi
nal dispositif identical in principle to formal structures; it is Freud
who is their victim. The confsion forms a barrier to his project or
to his idea of a libidinal economy.
If ebbing intensities stabilize themselves into confgurations, if
affects are distributed according to the vast matrix-dispositis, along
with what Klossowski calls phantasm a, into voluminols bodies, into
simulacra, and ey uall y, therefore, into fxed organizations of
elemmts of the 'formerly' libidinal skin become organism, psychic
apparatus, or whatever you like of this kind of thing, then it is
certain that Eros can live happily together with Logos. And when I
say Eros, it is still too simplistic, as we shall see: it is just as much the
death drives whose deregulation or deregulating, when its effect is
the fxation of impulsions, produces quite as many configurations,
stases, economic rigidities which will pass (in silence . . . ) for
formal structures. Who can distinguish what is sick from what is
therapeutic in conversion hysteria (to speak like nosographists)? It
has become banal, following Freud, to consider neurosis as a
compromise formation, as a stabilization which fulfls desire in its
double dimension, erotic and deadly. That the two dimensions are
The Creat Ephemeral skin 27
undecidable in the symptom, then, is almost in its nature. But no less
certain is the quasi-communicative, logical function of the symp
tom; every energetic confguration, because it rests on disjunctions
and synthetic recoveries of the disjoined elements, is a structure.
The symptom, or at least the syndrome, will be able to be read,
analysed and reconstituted as a structure, a stable composition of
elements; intense passages, tensors, are then no longer singularities,
they take on value, as elements, from their continuation, from their
opposition, from a metonymy without end. The unconscious is
structured like a language, let's speak of it in this way, that's all it
demands. It is in fact, and is only so when intensities are in decline,
when the incandescence of the bar makes way for the glow of what
is discriminating, when the dream is exchanged for the dream
narrative, when the traveller has just lain down and sold images for
an ear which would relieve him of them.
To discriminate instances of Eros from those of death by specifc
effects is to believe that to one of these instances, the life drive, one
function would be attached, that of collection and binding, whereas
the other would only disperse, expend, draw out impulsions for the
greatest death of organisms. This is once again to presume too much
of binarism; it is to accept the return of the concept in the midst of
its dissolution: if one and only one fnction is assignable to each
instance, both instances, of life and oj death, will always be
identifable by their functions, by effects which will always be
instantiated, precisely, sometimes on life, sometimes on death, but
always in an unequivocal way. Although one might well protest that
the signs from which these inductions or instantiations are brought
about are equivocal or at least polysemic, and that on them the
rivalry, or just as much the connivance, of death and life is played
out, it would still be the case that one concede in principle the
essential in admitting for each instance the unicity of its function,
and again therefore the possible identifcation of the instance by its
function. But in terms of what the 1920 text says, if Freud
introduced the instance of the death drives, it is precisely in order to
keep not only such a sign, but libidinal economy in its entirety, in the
shelter of the concept and of binarist discrimination. It is not at all a
matter of ciea1 ing the instances in two, this is the so-called 'labour' of
the concept, it is, on the contrary, a matter of rendering their
confusion always possible and menacing, of rendering insoluble the
question of knowing whether a particular Gestaitlng is an effect of
Li bidinal Econom
life rather than death, if a particular food, pulsional unbinding, is
suicidal rather than therapeutic from the point of view of the
apparatus which endures it, whether, on the contrary, a particular
stasis, a particular fxation, a particular crystallization of a stable
di;posit!f is amenable to palliative orthopaedics or mortiferous
Silence is a single line stretched over the brows and curving in on
l'ach side ill such a way as to envelop the cheekbones, as the lover's
hand, in Khajuraho's sculptures, envelops the obliging mistress's
breast; next it widens into a deltoid surface and rises to form the
narrow flanks of the nose. Around the Mediterranean, in Umbria, in
Provence, one fnds these strange sl opes, calm and infexible,
sometimes cultivated, sometimes deserts, according to its aspect,
;dwJYs smooth; strange because the terrain, far from being
constructed of hills and valleys, fows like a liquid body; and it fows
as mllch towards the top as towards the bottom, it docs not fow in
the way that a wash-basin leaks, it slides in both, in all directions at
once, displaying an inclined space without limit while being clearly
A fixed gaze turs into a smile, the eyelid system remains
immobile, it is only the matter of a modifcation of the cornea's
brightness, perhaps of the iris, of the diameter of the pupil,
something to be grasped in a 'time' less than that of a blink of the
eye. It is silence itself that calls up the infux, the abyss. What is
blockage, stasis of forces, immobilization and sudden damming of
impulsions (and which could be described accordingly as inhibition,
neurosis), gives rise to other tracks and grows in force. This is why it
is intolerable that one should pretend to cure this silence, to hring its
meaning, supposedly sayable in words, to light. Excessive domina
tion of the disposit!f of knowledge over every silence, as if in the
scientist's, the philosopher's, or the analyst's discourse (and not only
in that of the ideologist), it was no longer silence, silence left behind
it by the drip by drip of the tap of well-weighed words, the track of
desire which they extract, which produces its strength! Were the
doctor to bend over the abyss of silence, were he to hear with one ear
(the third), as in an anechoic chamber, the noise and the frenzy of
blood pounding against artery walls and of nervous infuxes
coursing along the fbres of the trigeminus . . . from his 'own body'
- good luck to him!
What have we to cure? I do not exactly know, but at least and frst
this: the disease of the will to cure. And the talking cure is not to be
The Great Ephemeral skin 29
privileged over physical-chemical methods: the one is of a pair with
the other, domination everywhere, occupation by all means, words
or substances, of regions allegedly attacked and their sanitization.
'The formation of the Super-ego', says Freud, 'which attracts
dangerous aggressive tendencies is equivalent, so to speak, to the
installation of troops in the place where sedition threatens. '6
Gaze of an eye, slow, thoughtless, fxed, then in a fash the head
pivots so that there is no more than a profle, Egypt. The silence
which settles around it extends to large patches of the libidinal band
which, it appears, are the property of its own body. These zones are
also silent, this means that heavy food-tides continuously, noise
lessly, surge towards 'their' own regions or come from these same
regions, along the length of the inclines. No need to try to land. This
silence is not blind and does not require that one make certain of
what comes about through a language, even one of hands or skins.
We love the language of hands and skins, but here it would be
unsubtle. To resort to it here would he to obey the ideology of
sexuality. To suggest to someone: let's tck, would truly be to treat
oneself as representing the sexual liberation movement. Same domi
nation as from the doctor, this time from the militant. Same gross
preterition of the libidinal labyrinth, in which, if it is true that
language is nothing, sex is not all. There then, plugging into a sort of
pain and joy, joy of the food breaking up so many dams, pain of
such a drift, entire regions coming undone drifting towards other
regions, and pain moreover because everything does not leave,
impatience that investments still resist, that the abyss docs not call
loudly enough.
But then why and how can the two principles, of life and death,
be assumed if they cannot be discerned through their two functions,
if bound wholes can be as congenial to life (organisms, statutes,
institutions, memories of all kinds) as to death (neuroses and
psychoses, paranoiac confinements, lethal stable disorders of
organic functions), if unbinding is as much for the relief of bodies -
orgasm and the release of semen, drunkenness and the blurting out
of words, the dance and loosening of the muscles - as for their
destruction: the mad laugh which sends the asthmatic's respiratory
rhythm into disorder and asphyxiates him, the panic which distorts
the joy of youthful demonstrations, the centrifugal impotence
which annihilates the strength of those who do not wish to hold any
power, the wandering to death of the schizophrenic who is in fact
30 Lihidinal Ecollomy
bedridden? What good arc two principles if every effect can be
related to both, together? Is it not contrary to the rule of economy in
hypotheses and of impoverishment in concepts which controls the
elaboration of theoretical systems?
Freud was well aware of these formal demands. If he introduced
the principle which he names Nirvana, it is in order that his libidinal
economy escapes the thermodynamic and, morc gcnerally, mechan
ical analogy, and so that this thought of the unconscious docs not
precisely close up into a theoretical system; so close to Nietzsche in
this respect. Libidinal economy is a disorder of machines, if you
will; but what
(JY CFl'Y prevents the hope of producing the
systematization and functionally complete description of it, is that,
as opposed to dynamics, which is the theory of systems of energy,
the thought - but this is still to say too little - the idca of libidinal
economy is all the time rendered virtually impossible by the
indisccmiability of the two instances. This 'duality' is not at all that
of the dialogue, it sets no dialectic in motion, it docs not accept a
dualism, since the two instances arc indiscerible I priori, and it is
only by examining a particular dct with patient, almost infnite
care (as Proust does with a gait, a smile, a taste, contact with a field,
the lamplight on a staircase, each event inexchangeablc, and
therefore lost for the memory), that it will be possible, bit by bit, to
attribute a particular Gcstaltlmg to life and the conservation of a
particular organized whole, a particular unbinding and disruption
rather to death through excess or lack. What may pass for a
superabundance of concepts has therefore nothing whatever to do
with any failure vis-a-vis the rules of formation of a theoretical
system: it is Hui a maner of concepts, since even it we could think the
instances of life and death (for example, il the manner of
cyberneticians, the first being the memory which in a homeostatic
whole rdates the system thrown into disorder by some event to its
unit of reference, the second then being something like the loss of
this memory, amnesia), since, in spite of these thoughts, we cannot
grasp, predict, control, efcts, affects, with the help of the
thought of instances: therefore very little of the conceptual . . .
Freud wants, we want, some ideas which would be in their 'order',
that is to say for the scrap of the libidinal skin which they invest,
what one solemnly calls the theoretical feld! - which would be just
as, almost as, impossible as is the effect of the passage of the turning
bar described previously.
The Great Ephemeral skin 31
This effect is not of duality, but of duplicity. In the ' theoretical
order' it will be necessary to proceed in this way, like this duplicitous
bar, not through an anxiety over mimeti cism or adaequatio, but
because thought is i tself libidinal, because what counts is its force
(its intensity) and because it is this that it is necessar to overlook in
words, this interminable worry, this incandescent duplicity. It is
therefore necessary that what one thinks can be always assi gnable to
a theoretical ensemble (semantic, formal, it matters little) , and
shown equally to despair of such an assignation. I t is necessary to
alter the course of the destiny that pushes thought towards the
concept , otherwise one will manufacture a libidinal economy which
will resemble a trivial political economy, that is to sa y an ideology
with the pretension to order, incapable of grasping the dupl icity of
the said economic movements. It is necessary to let the alleged
theoretical feld be swept by the tumult of intensities, even the most
diffcult to accept 'theoretically' . No-one can say that he will be up
to such a task, everyone seeks to fee these intensities and their
undecidability in the direction of the system and its binary ideal. I t is
true that the price to pay for these ideas is extraordinarily infated,
and renders the business hardly proftable, when it is cOpared to this
rich man's activity which is the labour of the concept, which makes
sense of the least scrap of material and whose process of accumula
tion appears infallible. With the hypothesis (but this is not a
hypothesis, evidently, it is not discussed, and one need not wait for
the alleged facts in order that it be falsifed or remain acceptable) ,
with the position of the two instances, one is plunged into fallibility
precisely because one thinks without criteria of falsifcation,
because the criterion of true and
alse is irrelevant to the idea when
this latter is an intensely spun top. And one is plunged i nto the
greatest anguish, for reall y, sirs, radical-socialists of the concept ,
we are not stupid, we are well aware of what profle can be seen on
t he horizon of thought as libi do, the same scarecrow which you get
out of your pockets and wave above your fleshy ears each ti me that
an intensity goes past and we jump, crazy withjoy and fear, into its
whirl: the scarecrow offascism; the same as the one you were waving
in '68 in France, in Germany, in Italy. You don' t have to be pushed
very hard before you come right out with it: idea-force is fascism.
You will always confuse power and force [ouvoir ct puissance] , you
will always call the violence which threatens your power power
Lihidinal ErMlOmy
We know this, we know that between frce [ptiissmlCl'l and power
there is, for crass eyes, a sort of indisceribility . . . we will not
respond to this because we do not enter into dialogue with the
radical-socialist concept ('communism' included), having leared
that to begin this dialogue is already to concede the essential, that is
the position of the concept itself and its consequences of the
'repressive' order. You should raise your soul to the following idea:
we arc certain, absolutely certain of what we arc sJying (without this
being certainty in the slightest, in the sense that you habitually
understand it), and at the same time, at the same instant, completely
deprived of all security; - certain, magisterially certain of the points
when, as we 'think', the libido attains intensity, because we are
educated and rcfned cnough in matters o(jollis.allrc and pain to have
acquired this pyromaHiar fair; but stripped once and for all of the
protection of the conccpt, thrown out of the sanitary cordon of the
thought of systems, and thus fragile like childrC , suspects, the
insane, stupidity awaits us, close to us, drawing liS Ollt from it and
throwing us into your arms, men of the concept, days when the frc
is too intense, when we may fear that in our words and ideas, this is
110 more than the death drive busy consuming everything, and when
we no longer dare to breathe above the surfaces which you would
have divided up, frightened to be swept along with it.
The Lahyrilth, the Cry
The labyrinth is a fint desert exposed to the Near-Eastern sun,
without wall, door, or window, a chalk surface. We recognize its
modei: a labyrinth which, 1 hIS mania fr knowledge, one of our
professors constructed for the instruction of a wingless insect.
Made from an immaculate box, fully lit by an arc-lamp, the white
terror which it was supposed to communicate to the beast had to
impel it to go all the way through this labyrinth, without error. In
this way the acquisition of habits is studied, and the animal's
intelligence evaluated by the number of attempts necessary to
achieve a faultless crossing. The cut-up box rested on a sheet of
water, which also frightened the insect. The beast, expelled from
the dark shelter where it was kept, runs in all directions, an almost
imperceptible silver thread, terri fed. It never learns this labyrinth.
Terror in the labyrinth is such that it precludes the observation and
notation of identities: this is why the labyrinth is not a permanent
The Great Ephemeral skir 33
architectural construction, but is immediately formed in the place
and at the moment (on what map, according to what calendar?)
where there is terror. The labyrinth, then, does not exist, but there
are as many labyrinths 'in it' as terrifying emotions, whether or not
they are felt. Each encounter gives rise to a frantic voyage towards
an outside of suffering. The suppression of this could only result in
an identical repetition of the encounter. One fees perhaps to learn,
to rediscover the encountered property, because through repeating it
one hopes to be able to localize it, to set up its situation, to inscribe it
in a time. But since this terror produces its own, singular, labyrinth,
there are other corridors, other corners than those which the fight,
and the feer, are able to delineate; that is why the beast learns
nothing, it multiplies incomparable labyrinths.
A similar feature justifes the strange behaviour of one of my
Italian friends, which he recounted to me while acknowledging his
inability to account for it. A researcher, he had lef his laboratory
very late, exhausted, and he had gone to a reception given by one of
his friends, a cultural director in one of the town's big museums.
This reception was held in some of the rooms of the museum itself,
it was celebrating the museum's renovation and new organization,
more appropriate for doing justice to modern artworks; but it also
marked the end, for my friend's friend, of the contract by which
for several years the town had charged him with the creation and
presentation of pictorial, musical and cinematographic activities.
When my narrator entered the museum, the crowd of his friend's
friends was scattered throughout all the open rooms, which form a
closed chain: groups everywhere chat, scream, laugh, ask each other
questions, smoke, drink, cat, recognize each other, around the
buffets, the two pop groups, the gallons of fowing wine, in
armchairs, or sit on the foor. All the faces make it seem that my
friend might know them.
His tiredness and his isolation happen, so to speak, to balance each
other, alleviated and aggravated. He takes to eating, drinking,
without meeting anyone, goes round the circuit of rooms, examines
the retrospectives that they exhibit, the years of work; certain works
are restored; others are present only in the form of photographic
reproductions; but all of them, silent in the tumult, were still there
simply in order to bear witness to past activities, like traces before
ctcement. The rooms diametrically opposite the buffet and the
bandstand are almost empty, he fees them, returns to the swollen
34 Libidinal EWl10my
belly of the cro'd, crosses and waves to his friend the curator,
drinks again, begins the circuit agai n, examining the faces as much
as the walls , prey to a growing agitation, whi ch he noti ces
It is on thi s second circuit that he recogmzes on a wall, a face,
recCIltly photographed at the time of a Warhol exhibition, in front
of the series entitled Marilyn. A mediocre rl iciIf in black and white,
like a line drawing, exaggerating thL' harshest values. In front of the
grid formed by the series of the actress' s portraits, themselves just a
painted cliche, he is brought to a halt by the fce of a woman who,
some years previously, had been hi s mistress ; she is turing towards
the lens, with atcted surprise, her mouth half open, as if the
photographer had ca\led to her just when she looked at the pi cture.
The hair, the eyebrows, the make-up on her eyelids and lips arc here
coal black; the glistClling of the irises and pupils is faithfu\ly
The photograph is pinned up by four drawing pins, amongst
others which illustrate the same period of the museum's activity. An
old suffering, for whi ch thi s woman was certainly responsible,
loses no time in reawakening, he sets off to lose himself in the
crowd, he hopes to fnd someone he knows. But his circumnaviga
tion of the retrospective leads him back in front of the photo. What
to do? He sets off a fourth time, stops for a long while in front of
the Prose du transsiberiC illustrated by Sonia Delaunay, in an almost
deserted room, more through di scipline than genuine interest,
howcver, preoccupied by the menace cmanating from the photo
graph. He drank again. It is very late, it wilJ soon be closed, groups
disperse, the bal1J an: packing up, the guards begin to empty the
rooms, starting from the point opposite the great entrance hal l ,
where the cl iche i s, and slowly advancing along the two semicircles
which lead there.
My friend fnds himsel f once more in front of the image, still
i ncognito in the anonymous jostl i ng. Taking advantage of the
di sruption, hc prises the pins out with hi s nai l s, he places the photo
under his jacket, in the holJow of his armpit, and leaves , having
stolen it. He gets into his car, and heads towards his home; but he
takes the road for the apartment of thi s woman, whom he hasn't
seen since the break-up. The apartment is situated at thc top of a
large building, which can be reached from the top foor only by
means of a spiralJing metal staircase hanging over empty space,
The Great Ephemeral skin 35
from which one can see what is happening in the front room. It is lit,
he sees silhouetted movement, he slips the photograph under the
door, runs quickly down the spiral stair, takes the lift, gets back into
his car, and waits with all the lights off He was followed, he hears
his pursuer's footsteps in the humid, deserted street, it is the
woman's boyfriend. My friend sets off without knowing if he has
been identifed. Some weeks later, she calls him up, saying that she
doesn't understand what he was doing bringing the photo, waits for
an explanation. He feigns astonishment: what photo is she talking
about, she knows very well he hasn't any of her? She cannot
contradict him.
The hero of this story tells me that he was not aware of what he
was doing, but he acknowledges the importance of having felt so
possessed by something which dictated his conduct. We know no
better than he; but the effect of powerlessness must be remem
bered. If one wants to eliminate it, the theft and the 'restitution' will
be interpreted as signifcative signs: for example, my friend wants
to suppress even the duplicata of a past suffering; and also: in
delivering this fac-simile to the woman, he wants to start up with
her again. It will then be said: this is ambivalent, that is why it was
intense. We seek no why, and judge ambivalence a little platitude.
In the labyrinth of the museum, my friend, the wingless insect,
had an encounter. He began the circuit over and again, several times;
each time, he loses his way in front of the photo; he learns nothing.
He fees the image, but fnally takes it with him; the image opens a
second labyrinth. that of the town streets, the corridors and
staircases of buildings. The second encounter takes place in this
other labyrinth which grows disconcertingly from the encounter in
the frst. The delivery of the photo puts an end to the second
labyrinth and to the suffering of which it is the effect, and which
was encountered in the frst. The ironic denial on the telephone
marks the dissolution of the third labyrinth, originating somewhere
(perhaps in this woman) from the relocation of the photograph. A
fourth labyrinth may then be opened, onto the listener, but no,
nothing of the sort happened, it appears. Unless the fact that my
friend had told me of this event and that I am publishing it would
have to be considered as a third encounter, opening a labyrinth of
which 1 am ignorant even of the material from which it might be
made; in any case, none of this can be decided.
No-one has the power to draw up the map of the great flm; this,
seen from the outside (but it has no outside) would be some kind of
Li bidinal Ewuoll Y
monstrous beast whose constitutive parts would change according
to ullforeseeable modulatiolls, would appear and disappear with the
same terrifying ease as virtual images on a screen. It would still be
necessary to imagine that the succession and nature of these images
were not determined by real images inscribed on the flm [pel liw/el
(in a technical sense). More generally. let's imagine that neither the
so-called contents nor the technical procedures permit the synthesis
into a story, into a doctrine, into a style, of the fragments of the flm
joined end to end; it would then be impossible to construct a single
time to contain and organize the monster of images; even the
recurrences suggested by certain schemes would remain ignored,
each OCCll rrence would be experienced as a present and innocent
ctTect. And there would be nothing monstroll S about this
assemblage, which would exist for neither a mind nor an eye.
When my Roman friend passes from one labyrinth to another, he
is not moving through a spatio-temporal grid. The labyrinths which
for convenience's sake (in the inevitable tribute paid to the order of
the reasonable) I called frst, second, etc. , in no way form an ordered
series. They do not belong to a structure of carrying over [ structllre de
yepo,t] ; nothing of the one is rediscovered in the other, at least as long
as each is formed as a sort of cyclone around a heart which is the
encouIlter, whose effects he prolongs and which he fees. Each of
these mazes is closed, at the same time as it is in undecidable
expansion; closed in that it has no crossover point, nor any part in
COlllmon, with the other terrifying cyclones; as to its expansion, this
would be in proportion to the effective force [uissance d'iet] of the
Il must nor be said that the encounter takes place in the labyrinth;
the labyrinth issues fom the encounter. There are only encounters,
each tracing at full speed around itself a multitude of transparent
walIs, secret thresholds, open grounds, empty skies in which each
encounter fees from itself, overfows itself, is forgotten, - or is
repeated, ceasing then to be an encounter. This latter does not
return, does not reproduce itself; the insect's terror is unique, new
every time; nothing is inscribed; a complete layout of the uncon
scious needs to be constructed in order to succeed in imputing to it
the responsibility for the return of the same; it must be supposed
that its effects are subordinated to a system on which identities or
what amounts to the same thing - differences could be identifed.
The pulsions are stupid exactly to the extent that they do not repeat
The Great Ephemeral skin 37
the same effects, therefore they invent. Invention is a triviality of
In 'The Theologians', Borges imagines two heresies by non
repetition; one is the act of certain sects called Histrions, of whom
he writes: 'They reasoned that the world would end when the
number of its possibilities was exhausted; since there can be no
repetitions, the righteous should eliminate (commit) the most
infamous acts, so that these will not soil the future and will hasten
the coming of the kingdom of Jesus. ' The other heretics, belonging
to the diocese of Aurelan, 'affrmed that time does not tolerate
repetitions . . . The admonitions of this new doctrine ( "Do you
want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon. Do
you want to hear what ears have never heard? Listen to the bird's cry.
Do you want to touch what hands have never touched? Touch the
earth. Verily I say that God must create the world anew. ") were
much too affected and metaphorical to be transcribed. '7
So the labyrinth ceaselessly invents and effaces itself The frst
heretics he cites profess and practise the impatience to have done
with it; but however much they affrm that nothing repeats itself, if
they can hope to precipitate the coming of the promised result in
committing (and thus eliminating) the most infamous acts, it is that
they think that the quantity of evils is not innumerable and that a
backwards count may be taken up somewhere else, at the end of
which the truth will be attained; their ethics is an algebra of the
primacy of the negative Oouhandeau would belong to this heresy) .
But can both the heresy of singularity and the heresy of acceleration
be sustained at the same time? Does this latter not require a sort of
memory, a catamnesia? But the heresy of singularity must exclude
even catamnesia, which supposes that there is an end already
assigned to history, and that the future exhausts itself entirely in
manoeuvres proper to removing whatever delays this end. These
manoeuvres are not perverse since their infamy is at last concen
trated [ circonvertie 1 , into the negative, on the immaculate mystical
body of Jesus. Such a theology we say to be as wretched as Hegel's;
it remains within the dialectic of good and evil, hardly caricatured
and rendered amusing: the Phenomeno[oy ofMind has 96 images per
second, a 33 rpm record of the Phaedre switched to 78.
But that the earth must always be touched for the first time, the
moon be seen, the bird be heard, as the other heresy professes, that is
harsh in another way. My Italian friend would adhere to this sad
3H Libidinal Ecolomy
inll ocence, as would my friend the insect: great fears, great loves arc
not inscriptions on a spatio-temporal register, and continuity or
fdelity pia y no part in them since there is nothing permanent from
one encounter to another, only the singular intensity, opening its
own labyrinth each time. Always lost, even when we believe we
make some sense of it, when, for example, we attri bnte such an
emotion to an underlying support [suPP()t ] , to ourselves, to a person.
This docs not entail that fdelity or continuity may not give rise to
an intense encounter; but this is as ephemera. There arc labyrinths of
continuity just as there arc labyrinths of treachery and interruption.
Let us endeavour not to subordinate anything to anything else,
neither permanence to discontinuity, nor the encounter to reli
ability. This is the strangest thing.
I sec the theology of the Histrions, whi ch I said was wretched, as
an indirect, vicious subordination of the ephemeral to the perma
nent. Octave' s relation to Robert(, in Klossowski's work, would
belong to this subordination. The laws of hospitality permit,
through the prostitution of the mistress of the house to her hosts,
the measure of her worth in her husband's eyes. Even if this pri ce is
priceless, it necessitates an appreciation, an estimation, the reduction
of each strong suffering and sensual pleasure onto a standard of
Let's listen to the pleas of an unfaithful husband: ' The cry' , he is
saying, 'that lacerates my wi fe' s plexus, whi ch I never cease to love,
every time she believes she sees my eyes gaze lovingly at another
Le, which takes the ground from under her; this cry is what I seek
most in the world, like death, the only certainty, it is this to which I
have sacrifced auJ will sacri fce every face, every head of hair,
every fssure and fold encountered and touched. My desire is for
precisely such a sacrifce, it is that, for this cry, whole populations of
cries remain for ever unheard, unfailing I y and deliberately, popula
tions of pain and pleasure si mply abandoned, from one day to the
next. This must suggest that the true libidinal relation of my
treachery is not that my beloved wife be sacrifced to my pleasures,
but that, on the contrary, my eyes, hands, lips are only laid upon
other surfaces and muscles in order that the unbearable pain in her
plexus attain the intensity without any equivalent for my body; only
to draw these intensities, certainly not small , back towards her
plexus in order that they throw her about like a lightning strike,
incomparable to any orgasm. '
The Great Ephemeral skin 39
This is a bad peroration if the litigant leaves it there; it devel ops the
Sadean' s posi tion, the propri etor' s : priceless implying a comparative
calculation. It is also the position of the Histrion heretics: each one
of my infamies takes place only to hasten my meeting up again with
truth and life, love for my beloved male or female Jesus; I deceive
only to gain. But who can say without shame (and without ridicule)
that the suffering which he spreads is a means and even a proof of
love, and that he maintains power over the direction of intensities?
And then, the lightning s trike of which the unfaithful one speaks , if
he is not a little pimp who can be reassured by procuring, negative
ethics and political economy, and who can fnd in the comparative
valuations of pleasures and pains something to stabilize his pitiful
ego, this lightning strike not only hits the body of a victim, an
exploited body, it is the blind deaf i mmobile belly of a labyrinth in
accelerated expansion, without issue. The zone struck is not j ust his
wife' s body, the torment is not only her own, not even both of
theirs , it is the product of several pieces of the pulsional flm heated
to white-hot anonymity.
Borges tells the story of a duel to the death between two drunken
men, rivals in competition; they have never learned to fght; they
choose their weapons from their host' s armoury by chance, one a
dagger with a U-shaped hilt, the other a short-bladed knife whose
wooden handle is decorated with a tree; to the witnesses' surprise,
the struggle proves to be conducted with a knowing precision, not
the indiscriminate butchery that was expected, but a meticul ous
chess game played on bodies, right up till the fnal blow. Much later
the narrator learns that these weapons from the duel had belonged to
two rivals, gauchos famous for their courage and ability t o kill; he
concluded that i t was indeed they who were ,hting, inspiring their
bearers . i
The anonymity of these latter does not exclude, but i mplies their
proper names . It would he only with regard to a central instance, that
of a great Armourer keeping archives of all the murders committed
by his weapons , that of a Pimp keeping books on all thejouissances he
allots to the prostitute-bodies - that another anonymity would creep
into the pulsional band, and that in place of proper names and insane
mazes which they signal one could put register numbers, conse
quently allowing subj ects at work to be located: imperceptible, but
immense, slipping, from tensorial anonymity t o productive pros
titutive bureaucratic anonymity.
4( ) Li hid i /I a I Ew / I <> 1/1 Y
Add thi s besi des to your frs t , ' unfai t hful ' pl ea : ' My wi fe' s cry i s
not the efect of any cause, whether t he di shonour, i ncurred from
fdl i ng from her posi ti on as a person, that I s ubj cct her t o through
my inf1 11 i es, as i s the case wi th a Sadean, an Octave. I am not the
producer, the archi vi st , t he knower, of thi s cry . I do not cal cul ate i t.
I t shri eks over my body at the same ti me as i t docs over hers, not
onl v \hen I say to her: t hi s i s how thi s other woman i s i n pl easure,
not onl y when on her express wi l l i make her i magi ne my eyes and
I I I y pal ms st roki ng fi ne exci ted areas, but al so moreover at t hat
suspended mOl l l cnt whcn the gl ans recei ves the di stant pul si ng
comi ng from t he dept hs of the ot her ' s WOIII b. Even t here i t screa ms
of cruel ty, and i n t hi s vi ol ence there i s my wi fe' s pai n. Thi s presence
is not obtai ned by compari son, trade, the i nterpl ay of the pri ce and
the pri cel ess, i t presupposes no monetary-mnel l 1 oni c i nstance, of
the general equi val ent and the possi bl e resci nder of debts, i t i s not
comparat i ve and written i nto t he accounts-book. How t hi s i s
possi bl e, I do not know. '
Thi s presence is not therefore t hat of the s ame, an i nst ance of
nei ther reference nor di fference (be i t accel erated by cri mes) . There
i s no permanent cry. The permanent i s si l ent becausc i t repeats i tsel f;
i t s abjection and i ts cop' s or pol i ti cal commi ssi oner' s i ntel l i gence
res ul t from i ts repeat i ng i t sel f The cry of your torture vi cti m i s not
I cry: she cries every ti me, her cries open as many l abyri nt hs. I f you
hear her cryi ng - no, that i s not even i t: i f the cry resonates
throughout the l abyri nth in whi ch you are l ost , it i s not because it i s
at t hc cnd, like a perversc resul t . The probl em of j eal ous y mus t cease
to be posed in terms of exteri ori t y, of triangul ar formation, of
penis-envy and homosexuai identifcatIOn. There could be I pulsional
jealousy, far simpler, more si ngul ar, concerni ng l i bi di nal economy
alonc, a j eal ousy i tsel f di ssi mul ated, for exampl e, in the hi ghl y
coded j eal ousy that noveli st s, ps ychologi sts and common sense are
acquainted with, that bel ongi ng to whatever topi c, comi ng under
whatever i nstance, and ending up of course in pol i ti cal economy,
for example, i n mercanti l i sm and in al l i mperi al i s m.
The j ealousy of t he cr y i s not , or not onl y, t hat of an i nstance hel d
up to ridicule; i t is t he rel ati on of every piece of the l ibidinal band
with that piece which desi re elect s, when they are in affnity. This
j ealousy i s a pulsional call; force investing itself here wrests a cry, an
exhalation, from there, nearby, i t sei zes all s urrounding force, i t
sucks up all surrounding energy. Jeal ousy is the whistling made by
The Great Ephemeral skir 41
the leap of force [uissance] suddenly beating down onto an area (or
inventing it) ; and the labyrinth is formed by its fows (but the centre
is ephemeral like the eye of a tornado) . The vulva is jealous of the
thoroughly kissed mouth, so is the mistress of the book her lover
writes, the man of the young man' s future, the sun of the closed
shutters behind which your imagination lets itself go in adventures
of reading. The cry which resounds in your helplessness, unfaithful
one, is not your wife' s, nor yours, it' s true: it is the noise made on the
band by the incompossibility of several co-present intensities. The
ancient gods were jealous of each other; this Olympus full of their
cries, it is the great flm (a little simplifed) turning and returning on
itself following its labyrinths like a monster attacked in several
places at once.
There is no intensity without a cry and without a l abyrinth. The
force which strikes a given surface of the great skin (that is to say
which invents it) exhausts its surroundings by making it scream, and
opens the maze of its fows. If infdelity makes the infdel cry as it
docs the man or woman to whom he is related, it is because their
bodies, fragments of their bodies, never cease haunting the areas
surrounding the points on which force [uissance 1 beats down. Your
body itself, unfaithful one, is jealous of the intensities which your
infdelity brings it, it too cries from the energy taken tom it, and if
it cries at the same time as your lover, it is because they belong to the
same pulsional surroundings.
It is necessary to hear the cry of the insect thrown under the glare
of 500 watts, and feeing into the maze. Every labyrinth is traced as
fight towards an outlet. There is no outlet: either one grows
accustomed to it, as the professor waited for the beast to do, the way
of being accustomed that is depression and inhibition; or else
through an encounter, in a new cry, another labyrinth, another time
opens up, but nobody is the master of encounters. Love is not giving
what one does not have; it is having to cry near to areas struck by
My examples are of suffering; they could have heen of elation.
There are labyrinths of joy, the latter no less mad than suffering,
very close to it. Around the armchair from the Marriage of Figaro,
Beaumarchais traces some dazzling mazes, where pieces of bodies
expelled from their shelters fee and get lost, but by laughing. Joy is
constructive, concentratory; it is an elevation arollnd a supreme
addressee, but incredulous and insolent joy is the laughter of
42 Li hidinal EWllomy
mctamorphoses that awaits no-one' s recognition and enjoys only its
ductility. It is a horizontal laugh, without assent. But, you say, the
encounter injoy engenders no l ine offight, on the contrary, it seeks
to maintain itself, doesn' t it produce the very permanence you
ddest? - No, fight is not only from terror, it is not me, you,
underlying agents (des suppots) , who fee, it is intensity which loses
itself in its own movement of expansion. Imagine the universe in
expansion: docs it Ace frolll terror or explode with joy? Undecid
able. So it is for the emotions, these polyvalent labyrinths to which,
only afer the event, the semiologi sts and psychologists will try to
attribute some sense.
- So you thereby challenge Spinozist or Nietzschean ethi cs, whi ch
separate movements of being-more fom those of being-less , of
action and reaction? - Yes , let us dread to sec the reappearance of a
whole morality or politi cs under the cover of these di chotomies,
their sages, their militants , their tribunals and their pri sons . Where
there is intensity, there is a labyrinth, and to fi x the meaning of the
passage, of sufring or of joy, is the business of consciousnesses
and their directors . It i s enough for us that the bar turs in order that
unpredi ctable spirals stream out, it is enough for us that it slows
down and stops in order to engender representation and clear
thought. Not good and bad intensities , then, but intensity or its
decompression. And as has been said and will be said again, both
dissimulated together, meaning [scml hidden in emotion, vertigo in
reason. Therefore no morality at all, rather a theatri cs; no politi cs,
rather a conspiracy.
We do not speak as the liberators of desire: idiots with their little
faternities, their Fourieresque ftasies , their policy-holder' s
expectations over the libido. We have nothing to do any more with
regilding the heraldry of the tragic. The tragic still necessarily
presupposes the great Zero, prison guard of destinies, mute
allocutor, Jewish god, or enigmatic locutor, Greek oracle. What
does the unfaithful one seek in hi s peregrinations? What he betrays,
or what he encounters? He necessarily betrays what he encounters ,
and necessarily encounters what he betrays. Hence his joy and terror
are intermixed, a vertigo whi ch sweeps away the signposts and the
directions of the movement, whi ch destroys the landmarks , the
egos. It is not the tragedy ofa destiny, nor the comedy ofa character
(it can be presented in this way, of course) ; no longer the drama of
totalization; rather the strangeness of fctive spaces, Escher' s
waterfalls whose point of i mpact i s higher than their source.
The Tensor
Semiotic Sign
Let ' s take up this business of signs once more, you have not
understood, you have remained rationalists, scmioticians, West
erners, let ' s emphasize it again, it is the road towards libidinal WYYClcy
that must be opened up by force. What the semioticians maintain as
a hypothesis heneath their discourse is that the thing of which they
speak may always be treated as a sign; and this sign in its turn is
indeed thought within the network of concepts belonging to the
theory of communication, i t is 'what replaces something for
someone' says Peirce, repeats Levi-Strauss, which means that the
thing is posited as a message, that is, as a medium enriched with a
sequence of coded clements, and that its addressee, himself in
possession of this code, i s capable, through decoding the message,
of retrieving the information that the sender meant him to recei ve.
Immediately then, ex hypothesi, the thing is hollowed out,
becomes a substitute: i t replaces the 'information' for that someone
who i s the addressee. This replacement, of course, may be
conceived in two ways, according to two very different lines of
thought. One could say that the sign replaces what it signifes (the
message replaces the information) , this i s, to put it as brutally as
possible, the Platonism of the theory of Ideas, for example: the sign
at the same time screens and calls up what it announces and conceal s.
This has al l been sai d hefore by Port-Royal . Or we may think this
substitution, no longer metaphorically, but according to the inter
minable metonymy that Saussure or whatever other political
economist may conceive under the name of exchange; i t i s no longer
signifcation (what is encoded) , then, which the sign substitutes -
this trick is invented: that signifcation itself is constituted by signs
alone, that i t carries on endlessly, that we never have anything but
references, that signifcation i s always deferred, meaning is never
present in fesh and blood. We are filled with compassion for good
44 Li bidinal EWlI omy
ol d Husser! , we say: no, there a re onl y di fferences , and i f there i s
meani ng i t is because there i s a si gn, and i f there i s a s i gn i t i s because
there is di fference, not just any di tference, one never passes
haphazardl y from one el ement to another, on the contrary, there i s
an organized voyage from one term to another, and extreme
sys temati c or structural preci si on, and undereath i t al l , ul ti matel y,
i f we have rel i gi ous s oul s l i ke Frcud or Lacan, we produce t he i mage
ofa great si gni fer, for ever compl etel y absent, whose onl y presence
is abscnti fcati on, reserve and rel i ef of the terms whi ch make si gns
of i t - substitutes for each ot her, - the i mage of a great zero whi ch
keeps these terms dijl l ll {(, and whi ch we will transl atc i nto l i bi di nal
economy under the name, unpronounceabl e of course, of
Kas trator.
Sec what you have done: the materi al i s i mmedi atel y anni hi l ated.
Where there is a message, there is no materi al . Adorno sai d thi s
admi rabl y of Schoenberg: the materi al , he expl ai ned, in seri al i sm
docs not count as such, but onl y as a rel at i on between ter ms . And i n
10ul ez there wi l l be nothi ng but rel ati ons, not onl y between pi tches,
but al so between i ntensiti es, t i mbres, durations . Demateri al i zati on.
Here a l ong exami nati on i s necessary: i s thi s demateri al i zati on t he
equi val ent of what capi tal docs i n matters of sensi bi l i ty and affect?
I s i t al so si mpl y an abstraction of picces of the pul si onal band, i ts
di ssection [dCcoupaclc] into comparabl e and countabl e parts? Or i s it,
under cover, and as a resul t , of this squari ng off, i ndi scernibl y, an
opportuni ty for a refnement and an intensi fcati on of the passages
of affects? And i f this i s the case, then is this ' demateriali zati on' not,
in the same space and ti me, the cartography of a material voyage, of
new regions of sonorous , but al so chromati c, scul ptural , pol i ti cal ,
erotic, l inguistic space, being, as a resul t of the misc en sigHcs,
conqucred and crossed by the trails of infuxes, offering the l ibi do
new opportunities for i ntensi fcati on, the fabrication of signs
through ' demateri alization' providi ng material for the extensi on of
We are suffcientl y convinced that thi s l atter hypothesi s i s the
right one, but frst l et us pursue the description of some notabl e
efcts of the mise CH sigHe i n i ts own fel d.
Not onl y is the material commuted into a si gn-term, but al so the
' thi ng' whi ch the sign replaces i s i tsel f another sign, there i s nothing
but signs. First consequence: the rel ation is therefore an infnite
postponement, and thus sets up recurrence as a fundamental trait of
The Tensor 45
the system, the reiteration of the postponement of the sixnifer
guaranteeing that one will always need to work to determine the
terms to which, in a given corpus, the term under examination can
and must lead. The other consequence is that with the sign begins the
search. This might have been the search for God, for signifcation,
when the metaphorical organization of the signifer predominates.
For we moderns, for whom the thought of this metaphor is absent,
and who glory in substructural metonymic substitution, the object
of the search is no longer God or truth, but the search itself scientifc
research is not to be made a search for causes, we are well aware that
this is not a good concept, but a search for 'effects' in the scientific
sense, the search for a discourse that can produce locatable,
predictable and controllable metamorphoses, a search, then, for
discrimination. There is no sign or thought of the sign which is not
about power and for power. The voyage of this search is not the
drift of the mad and the plague-stricken, nor the transpatial exodus
of the uncanny, it is the well-prepared fight of the explorer,
foreshadowing that of the priest, then the soldier and the business
man, it is the avant-garde of capital, which is itself already simply
capital insofar as it is the perpetual activity of pushing back its
frontiers, the incorporation of yet more new pieces of the band into
its system, but incorporation with a view to revenue, to yielding a
return. The sign goes with this business trip, and the business trip
creates the sign: what is al African for a British explorer, what is a
Japanese for an eighteenth-century Jesuit? Organs and partial drives
to be reahsorbed into the normal organic body of so-called
Humanity or Creation. Materials to dematerialize and to make
Sigfl !. Do you really believe, say the white thinkers, that the Noh
actor, moving forward with his feet together, sliding over the stage
floor as though he were not moving at all, means nothing? It is a sign,
it is in the place of something else, there is a code, and the addressees
know it, or in any case, even if it is unconscious, it exists, and we
semiologists, Jesuits, Stanlcys, conquerors, we will only have
triumphed when we are in possession of this code and arc able to
remake it, simulate it - the model of all semiology is not The Purloined
Letter, it is The Gold-Bug. These Africans, these Orientals, being
dead, leave messages of treasures, we simulate them in codes. Lcvi
Strauss: I want to be the language spoken by myths.
And thus, with this voyage of conquest which could not but have
been inspired by the mise en signe (unless it is the opposite, a certain
Libidinal Lconom y
sort of voyage inspiring the misc l'11 S(II(" but we arc hardly partial to
these futile questions of priority, all that is a gross package of little
assemblages bearing on that thing, that material, that person - it is a
dispositi where everything works i n pairs), thus along with this
voyage of research and conquest, where the latter is always
postponed, COl1es, indissociably, an intention, an intention to forge
a relation, an intention to yield a revenue. To rediscover the code of
sigllS, jlJr pOller, power as calise, power as ai m. Every risk is taken,
going to cohabit with the cannibals, being stationed at a frontier
post, the microbes, radiations, all the deaths incurred, all the sins like
the Jesuit i n the SuppUment all lJoyage de Bougainville, but taken
intentionally, and so divisively. Not the zone and the moment of the
strained tensors, but the zone crossed, moment of a movement,
therefore the tensions and their attendant risks and pains paid fr in
the hope of an ulterior gain, perceived and experienced as 1055, as
concessions necessary for health, progress, knowledge, enlighten
ment, socialism; the thor-tor rags of wasted fesh arc inessential,
the important thing being the /tzal reVCl/ l le, what will be gained from
it, as all those holiday-making wage earers will testify, as will their
bosses, the rich and their masters: that is to bring back the images,
photos, flms, words, the prestige, tourism of the return, retourism,
a series of explorations, and always the same itinerary. Here we
encounter the question of interest, for tourism, or conquest, is
interesting-interested insofar as the expenditllres, not only those of
equipment and maintenance, but also aJJective expenditures which arc
eventually very heavy, like Caesar at the Rubicon, are nothing more
than advarw:s, insofar, then, as desire is lost only the better to be
But we must emphasize that it will not be recovered, but will be
recovered there, where is it? nowhere other than in the accounts
book, in the open, booklike, space-time as a result of the intention
of the mise en signe. It will not be recovered since there is only
postponement and diffrence, and since there is never any question
of desire and its proper modality in the constitution of signs:
semiology as the preamble to all the sciences ignoring, as they all do,
the desire that it itself fulfls. Another consequence then: with the
sign, if we have intention and postponement, we have also the
opening up of diachrony, which is only a drawing-out of the tense
of the compact immobile tensor into an always past and a still to come,
an even now and a not yet, into the game of dc-presence, the very
The Tensor 47
game of semiotic nihilism. How does signifcation stand in relation
to its signs? Before them since they are but its by-products; always
behind them since their decoding is endless. In this apparently
senseless pursuit, the constitution of meaning, however, there will
be some hermeneut or pessimist who will say to us: look, we never
have meaning, it escapes us, it transcends us, it teaches us our fnitude
and our death, - so, while the edifying pastor tells us this, his
soldiers and his businessmen collect organs, pulsions, pieces of the
flm, stock-pile, capitalize them. And the time we ' know so well',
'secondary' time according to Freud, the a priori form according to
Kant, the Bergsonian-Husserlian-Augustinian conscious unfold
ing, is fabricated in the double game of this despair and this
hoarding, despair of lost-postponed meaning, of the treasure of
signs which are simply 'experiences' happened upon, run through,
the Odyssey.
Already with Ulysses the thing which the sign replaces has itself
become a sign; look at Ulysses with Nausicaa and sec what sort of
l ove the Westerner can manage in his pathetic conqueror 's machismo;
women to him are like Negroes and Chinese, a challenge, success
guaranteed, one moment in the hoarding, an unexpendable exteri
ority in an endless process of the mise etl signe, of the accumulation
of things-become-signs in systems. We, we desired that Ulysses
does not return, we cried with Nausicaa, we said to her: you have
been too Greek, neither submission nor domination were necessary,
but to be side by side, only then could he have gone astray, and have
been rendered incapable of obtaining and registering his yield. But,
she responded, is it even possible not to enter the masculine Greek
capitalist game of domination? To be side by side, said the beautiful
princess, is not to be alongside, but to be inside and nevertheless
indissociably in the margins. Was it up to me to save this asshole
anyway? In wanting me to save him, you are acting on my behalf, as
he has done, you subordinate me to your plans, of course you no
longer want his return and revenue, you want his 'perdition' - but in
your eyes that would be his salvation, and so I would remain his
slave, his moment, his springboard, and you would henceforth
retain me within a dialectic. To desire that Nausicaa 'lose' Ulysses,
she is correct, is to remain Western, it is the sign again, barely
displaced; after all there are explorers who become Negroes, pagan
priests, Polynesian Jesuits, mutineers on the Bounty - do you really
believe that the salvation-intention is less urgent for these people
Lihidillal I :'(MI OI I I Y
t hal l it is for thei r Ci t y mas ters, Rome and the Royal Navy? Less
urglt wi th our fri end Jaul i n than wi th hi s mas ter-enemy Lcvi
Strauss There remai ns s omethi ng salJcd in these rui nous voyages,
the i l l tenti on i n quests for i ntensi t y. You don' t get ri d of retur and
revenue through departure and export . Here, fri ends , l et us be al ert
to dupl i ci t y and cul t i vat e i t .
One further consequence for t he i nf) fI l l at i onal consti tuti on of
t he si gn : there i s someone for whom t he message replllu., the t hi ng
si gni fed, t here i s a s ubject ( two s ubj ects) , t hat i s to s ay an i nstance to
whi ch al l the predi cates, al l the post ponement s of meani ng, al l the
event s experienced and t oured, arc rel ated. Thi s someone i s
somet hi ng t hat wi l l expand i n proporti on to the cxpcricl I (e accumu
l ated (experi ence, remember what Hegel sai d, where t he subj ect wi l l
never s t op sayi ng t hat he i s forever dyi ng, oh hero, oh Ego! ) , t o t he
extent t hat events, tensors, passages of i nt ens i t y, fnd themsel ves
spl i t i nto si gns - and then these s i gns , i t i s t he ' recei ver' , the addressee
who wi l l assur e thei r stock-pi l i ng and ownershi p, and he wi l l s ay:
l ook, I have been to Egvpt , l ook, I have navi gated bet ween
Charybdi s and Scyl l a, l ook, I have heard the s i rens, look, I l eft my
dwel l i ng for the wi l deress, a n d he wi l l S3y, al l these, these
emoti ons , arc messages that I have heard, I must underst and them,
t hey speak to me, i t has spoken, who i s t he sender? The I is
consti tuted in this rel3tion of the sign as both addressee (what Kant
calls Si l l l l lichkeit , Rezeptil 'itit) and the decoder and inventor of codes
( i ntel l ect, Selhsttdtigkeit, autonomy) . Receptivity is here only the
indispensablc, constitutive moment of autoactivity. The I is frst of
all an ego, but it will become itsel through collstrllilg what it or the
other says (since it is not there). The same 'di ;crti c' of the intense
and the intentional splits things experiencld, it splits the ego
constitutively, it is its constitution, receptive! active, sensible!
intelligent, donee!donor - all this counting only, ,e repeat, in the
confguration of the sign, part passivity, part acti vity, part message
received, part decoding intelligence, part meaning, part understand
ing, part emotiOlul opacity, part intentional capacity; and even
Husser! with all his intentionality must inject passivity into his
meditation, the passive synthesis. And, of course, it will be merely a
moment in the construction of intentionality, oh the pretty move
ment of the jaw by which the head grasps meanings, takes them up,
oh formation of capital, gracious game of sublation.
Two more things on semiotics. It thinks in concepts. This is
because the sign is itself nothing but the concept. Not only in its
The Tensor 49
stable static constitution of the term whose connotation and
denotation are assignable only through being put into regulated
relations with other terms, through groups of allegedly well
formed propositions in a clarifed formal system; but also in its
conceptual dynamism, it is the sign as conquest, for the concept
works, like the sign, it is fenetic, it seeks borders, its frontiers, it
advanccs on its extcrioritics, it touchcs thcm and just as it tonches
them, they ceasc being exterioritics, it never attains them, and at the
same time this allows it to marvel at thc force of the negativc, oh
stupid imperialism dressed up as tragic labourism, oh the hilarious
'labour of thc concept' ! - Right, it is the samc self-styled 'labour'
with the sign: it is not so simple as you make out, you say to us, thc
metonymic relation between tcrms is not only endless, it is
constantly breachcd, crossed, by othcr chains, Frcud taught us this ,
and in the event each term is a crossroads of several routcs, a vertigo,
and thcir intcrlacing is a text or texture where not one but several
meanings are woven together, each one pulling the term towards
itself, and that is the labour of the sign. Oh cxquisite polysemia,
tiny rift of the well-informed, little, recalcitrant disorder, sugared
deconstruction. Don't evcn hope to catch the libidinal in thcse nets.
One last point, which has already been made a thousand times:
semiotics is nihilism. Religious science par excellence. Consult the
Victorins of the twelfth century for a fne example of semiotics , the
attempt at reading Creation in its dctails, at understanding thc givens
as messages in order to nuke a code of them; and already this
refnemcnt: Hugo and Richard de Saint-Victor know that they are
not and will never be in possession of the code; thus with this
refnement they already love that aspect of things which denies them
the code, they love the negative of the code in the message, they
value the labour of this negative, the text, the dissimilitude of things ,
and fnd beauty in it. It is a religious science because it is haunted by
the hypothesis that someone speaks to us in these givens and, at the
same time, that its language, its competence, or in any case its
performative capacity transcends us: the very defi nition of the
unconscious we fnd in the boldest semioticians, Lacan, Eco. Thus
the sign is enmeshed in nihilism, nihilism proceeds by signs; to
continue to remain in semiotic thought is to languish in religious
melancholy and to subordinate every intense emotion to a lack and
every force to a fnitude.
so Libidinal EronolY
Dissi mHlation
We know your objection, semioticians: whatever you do or think,
you tell us, you make a sign of your action and refection, you
cannot do otherwise, due to the simple perspective it provides on thc
referltial axis of your action-discourse, hollowed out into a two
faced thing, meaningful/meaningless, intelligible/sensible, man
ifest/hidden, in front/hehind; whenever you speak, you tell us, you
excavatc a theatre in things.
Fair cnough, wc don't deny it, we've bccn through it and go
through it all the time, it is in no way a matter of determining a new
domain, another fcld, a beyolld representation which would be
iml llunc to the effects of theatricality, not at all, we are well aware
that you arc just waiting for us to do this, to he so 'stupid' (but such
an crror does not warrant this namc, we will soon reclaim stupidity)
which amounts to saying: we quit signs, we enter the extra-scmiotic
order of tensors. Wc arc well aware that were we to say this we
would lIltirely fulfl your desire, for it would he so easy for the frst
semiotician to come along to recover our alleged exteriority with the
little African imperialist labour of exploration, of ethnology, the
mission, the trading post, thc pacitcatioll of the colony. We are well
aware that this is the fate you gleefully prepare for our libidinal
economy, just like that which capital prcpares for thc workcrs'
deI1Hnds, Whitcs for coloured people, adults for children, the normal
for the mad, 'men' for 'women' . Very intimidating. El'erything at
present is played out here, it is here we must tght, tracc out our
route, not the frontiers of our empire, but our lines of fight as
1.f1 ,:1 1 1'" (' . " r r 1
i'..ULL J< y .
We must frst grasp this: signs are not only terms, stages, set in
relation and made explicit in a trail of conquest; they can also be,
indissociably, singular and vain intensities in exodus.
Is it a question of another kind of sign? Not at all, they arc the same
as those turned into theory and textual practice by the semiotician.
The frst thing to avoid, comrades, is pretending that we arc situated
elsewhere. We evacuate nothing, we stay in the same place, we
occupy the terrain of signs, we merely say: ritual death for the
Cua yaki, you interpret it as the compensation for an exchange
between the living and the dead designed to keep world-wide
equilibrium intact, which you then make into a sign referring to
other signs in the general structure in Cuayaki culture- we understand
The Tensor 51
i t otherwise. I t speaks to you? I t sets us in motio1. Marcel's father
climbs the stairs with his lamp: you see in his son's excitement the
meaning-effect of the Oedipal structure, we seek to carry them on
towards the construction of other things, texts, images, sounds,
politics, caresses, and if possible, just as productive of movement as
Proust's text. And when I say ' as productive', it is badly put, for it is
not a matter of quantity; it mllst be understood as the singular
quality of this text giving rise to prolongations, ramifications, the
invention of new libidinal fragments which no other object could
have engendered. First, therefore, a different reaction, a ditrent
reception. We do not suppose, to begin with, that the signs, in this
case Proust's text and that of Clastres, transport messages that are
communicable in principle. We do not start off saying to ourselves:
there is someone or something that speaks to us, I must understand
them. To understand, to be intelligent, is not our overriding
passion. We hope rather to be set in motion. Consequently our
passion would sooner be the dance, as Nietzsche wanted and as Cage
and Cunningham want. (And you must immediately understand
that here, on this methodological point, there will be the worst
diffculties, the greatest mistakes, we wilJ have hoards of false
dancers wanting to call themselves our friends, in the frst place, and
then there will be censors who will explain to us, as if we didn't
already know, that in order to dance we must frst hear; but we
answer that by saying that it is not the same thing to dance by transit
and to listen in order to understand; and fnally at this very point we
will have taxing analysts, who will say to us: oh yes, you extol the
transition to the act, that is what they call dance, you perform actings
out in order to avoid workings-in; alas, these will be the most diffcult
to subvert. )
A dance, then, not composed and notated, but on the contrary,
one in which the body's gesture would be, with the music, its
timbre, its pitch, intensity and duration, and with the words
(dancers are also singers), at each point in a unique relation,
becoming at every moment an emotional event, as in Cage's Theatre
Piece, as in the execution of a piece of Noh theatre by an actor
inspired by Zeami's Flower ofInterpretation. One could remain still
for a long time, inert, waiting for the moment of this fower, this
encounter, this tuche where something is set alight on what is called
the body, and this waiting must also be loved, just as beautiful, this
immobility, just as changing and motive as the fracturing-unfold
ing of the play of the graceful pale hands and their violence when
52 Li hidill al Ew II 01 1 1 Y
t hey arc beaten agai nst the t am bouri nc in the Korcan courtl y dancc
ul kd f l l C/z 'o Shi l l .
ror there is ;1I so the sOl l l ethi ng we seck in a tace in a Montparnasse
ni ght , i n a voi ce on the tel ephone, somethi ng about to happen, a
waveri ng or a di rect tone of voi ce, a si l ence, a fxedness, an erupti on;
but t hat docs n' t cOl li e. And t hi s , E from cvoki ng resent mcnt or
di s gust , t hi s reserve i s l oved wi t h t he l lI ost demandi ng i mpati ence.
A dance i ncl udcs S ll spense, as mll si c i ncl udes si l ence. And the
i mportant thi ng not bei ng whet her i t i s ' wel l composed' ( i t must,
however, be wel l composed) , but that i n the event of thi s semi ot i c
perfecti on there i s tensi on. That the st ruct ure be merel y somet hi ng
t hat ' covers' t he affect, i n t he sens c that i t acts as a cover: t hat i t i s i ts
secret and al most i ts di ssi mul at i on. Thi s i s why we mus t dearl y l ove
t he semi oti ci ans, the struct ural i st s, our cncmi es, t hey are our
;l CCol ll pl i ces, i n thei r l i ght l i es our obs curi t y. Here, were I compos
i ng, a eul ogy to di ssi mul at i on woul d be gra fed on .
Ler us be content to recogni ze in di ssi mul at i on al l t hat we have
becn sceki ng, di fn:nce wi t hi n i dent i t y, the chance evcnt wi t hi n
t he foresi ght of composi ti on, passi on wi t hi n reason - bet ween each,
s o abs ol utel y forei gn to each other, the stri ctest uni t y: di ssi mul a
t i on . Thus the Anti chri st preachi ng i n the square painted by
Si gnorel l i i n an On- i eto fresco i s exactl y l i ke Chri st, so i t i s true that
Chri s t dissi ml l iates the Ant i chri st i n the sense that he conceal s hi s
tlarsome mi ssi on trom the l atter i n hi s speeches, and when he says
' Love one another' , it woul d take very l i ttl e for the most di sastrous
mi sunderstandi ng to ensue (and in fact i t does) ; and the Anti chri st
t oo dissi mul ates Chri st i n s o far as he si mul ates the l atter, as cl ose to
hi m as lJkes no differcnce, this oeing the ' dis-' of di ssimulation, or
di ssi mil ation. Our recepti on of the si gn di ssi mul ates i ts semi oti c
reception, whi ch al so di ssi mul ates ours , al though not i n the same
way, wi thout necessi tati ng that one j udge there to be an Anti chri st ,
and which one he i s.
But understand thi s, to change references, that the two principl es ,
Eros and death, of Freud' s fnal pul si onal theory Ucnseits, 1 920) , are
not t wo i nstances each endowed with a distinct functi onal pri nci pl e
a l lowing their i denti fcati on from t hei r respective effects or symp
toms in the ' psyche' or on the hody. I t i s not the case that Eros i s the
producer of whol es , systems , composi tor or master-bi nder, and
that the death dri ves on the other had arc the destroyers of systems,
the deconstructors, the unbi nders . When, on the hysteri c' s body,
The Tensor 53
fragments of the great band are circumscribed and excluded from
the regulated circulation of affects, placed outside normal intensity,
'anaesthetized', when the muscles contract and remain taut, the
respiratory tracts are choked, provoking asthma, these are little
pulsional dispositi (a fragment of the organic respiratory system, a
piece of the organic system of striated or smooth musculature)
which form totally self-dependent wholes: ,ill it be said that it is
Eros, insofar as he is the maker of wholes, who is responsible for
this? Or rather death, because these wholes are jammed? But
jammed in relation to what, to which normality? Dora the organic's
respiratory system is jammed, Dora the hysteric's respiratory
system works wonderflly, and there is no need to seek a secondary
beneft for her troubles. The beneft is immediate, there is no beneft,
there is a pulsional machinery put in place, which functions on its
own account, and this machinery does not work according to death or
according to Eros, but according to both, erotic as a regulated
machine (a machine upon which discourse will try to produce a
reasonable simulacrum in Freud and Lacan's texts), lethal as a
deregulatory machine (which the analyst wants to repair) - but also
mortal as regulated (hecause it condemns Dora to a sterile repeti
tion), and alive because of its deregulation (because it attests to the
fact that the libido circulates and invests over the organic body, in its
unpredictable displaceability).
There are two principles then, and these principles are not
instances identifable according to their respective functions, Eros
being capahle of unbinding and setting free, death binding to the
point of being a strangler, and freud himself, who didn't see this
clearly, nevertheless recognized it at the end ofJerseits when he says
in the space of a few lines frst that the pleasure principle is
subordinated to the death drives: it is then that he understands these
latter as a system of compulsions to repeat which want to bring
everything back, even the most painful things, like the dreams in
traumatic neuroses, and that it is necessary to suppose a binding
through repetition prior to all discharge if it is true that this requires
channels of facilitation and specific actions in order to produce
satisfaction; - and, a little later, that the Nirvana principle is
subordinated to the pleasure principle, here understanding by
'Nirvana' this excess of force which forces the discharge beyond the
metabolic rule to which the 'psychical apparatus' (or the body) is
subjugated, and which threatens to make this latter explode. In each
54 Lihidinal EC01 1 0my
unique event the functions arc undecidable; it is always a question of
retaining the possibility that it may not he possible to assign all
afl'ct, that is, simply a s(n, to one pulsional principle alld one alone.
And it is clear that it is not then a question of poiysemia, not of
ovcrdetermination, this canllot be maintaillcd by saying ' Death will
add its efects to those of Eros' , or vice versa; it is not a question of
the fact that the sign, Dora' s cough, is caught up in sCl'eral lletUorks
or structures producing meaning.
I t is quite clearly a question of the fact that the sign is 011 the one
hand caught in these networks, thus localizable in metonymic
systems (still, ofell with Freud himsdC in metaphoric systems)
each differing from the others, that it is heterosemic or heterologi
cal and consequently Sl bject to semiotics - but ji t rlilermore, jel/scits,
that it is not assignable to a specifc function nor therefore to the
play of its effects of meaning, nor to any other, that it is
indissociably a sign of referral and through referral, but without an
assignable rderral. At the same time a sign which produces meaning
through differcnce and oppositioll, :d a sign producing intensity
through tllrce [pllissal1cc ] and singularity. Libidinal intensity; we arc
almost tempted (but we will not do this, we have become sly old
t(xes, too often trapped) to give it a priority, and to say: in the last
instance, if you, semiologists, have any cause to set up your nets of
meaning, it is primarily because there is this positive incandescence,
because first of all it is Dora' s throat which seizes up, because there
is, in short, a given, and this given is indeed the intensifcation of a
particular region of the beautiful Dora's body, it is this region
indeed which has become an intelligent-intelligible sign! But we arc
not even saying this, we arc indifferent to priorities and causalities,
these forms or guill, as Freud and Nietzsche said. Order matters
little, what is, however, of great importance is the fact that this
same symptom has inevitably two simultaneously possible
Is there any need to mention the hilarious perspectives opened up
by this idea of dissimulation in matters of theoretical discourse
especially, and also in this business (blandly taken on these days
under the label of Freudo-Marxism) of the dialectic of theory and
11temity, the Name
Were it necessary to give an example of the way in which the tensor
can dissimilate itself in semantics and dissimulate this latter, we
The Tensor 55
could take that of the proper name. It i s primarily of this name that
Frege and Russell speak, which poses the logician a problem since i t
refers in principle to a si ngl e reference and does not appear to be
exchangeable agains t other terms in the logico-linguistic s tructure:
there is no intra-systemic equivalent of the proper name, it points
towards the outside like a deictic, it has no connotation, or it is
interminable. A small diffculty which the logicians resolve with a
concept (having no choice of means) , that of the predicate of
existence. Hegel already knew thi s: the Meinen, and the obstacle that
the gift of existence, fesh and bones, as Husser! will say in turn, can
oppose to any systematization of signs. So, to whomsoever asks,
' What about Flechsi g?' we will repl y: 2 there exists at least one
individual such that he can be named Flechsig, he is Schreber' s
doctor - thereby keeping within the reference as if it were an
anchoring. But the name of this same individual gives rise to a
dividuation when it is gripped by Schreber' s delirium. It will render
compatible a multitude of incompossible propositions concerning
the same ' subj ect' of the statement. Of the predicate ' Flechsig' , i t
will be possible to say si multaneously that he is a cop, that he is God,
that he is a lover seduced by Schreber' s feminine charms, that he
does everything he can to prevent the president from shitting, that
he is a member of a noble family of long standing which was
involved with Schreber' s family. What makes this a delirium?
Simply the fact that it is stated.
It is the same delirium that a writer, barely more prudent for
having interposed a subj ect of the statement between himself and
his text, called Marcel , the same delirium as over the proper name of
Albertine. 3
It is the same delirium as that of Octave over the proper name of
Roberte, 4 the deputy-whore, the virtuous libertine, t he undefinable
offered-refused body, dissi mulatory body par excellence because a
dissi mulation in two senses : on the one hand the Huguenot and
reveller can take on the function of the sign in the equally thinkable
networks of respectability and sensuality; but on the other, each of
these assignations dissi mulating something, not the other as such,
insofar as it bel ongs for its part to a regulated, apparently regulated
network of respectability, simply displaced, the MP being as
thinkable as the whore each according to their own order - no, each
assignation dissimulating the sign as tensor, and not the other
sensible sign, and the tensor sign in that the proper name ofRoberte
Lihidill al EcoNolll Y
covers al l area \here the t wo ' orders ' ( two orders at l east, there must
be more) are not two, but i ndi sceri bl e, where the name ofRohertc is
l i ke a di sj ul l cti ve bar t uri ng a t hi gh speed around some poi nt or
other - the gaze, the vul var sl i t , the gl oved thumb, al l i nt onat i on -
and di spl aci ng i tsel f in a n al eat ory fa shi on on the segment whi ch
t() rJns thi s bar. I f Roberte is a tensor, it is not because she is both a
sl ut and a thi nker, but beca use she exceeds , j('/ / scits, hoth t hese
assiIl(/tioI l S i n the verti go of an i ntensi t y where, i f the i nsi de face of
the thi gh i s exposed at the edge of the s ki rt , i f the fesh of the thumb
strai ns towards the seducer' s mout h, i f the na pe twi sts under hi s
teeth, i t i s certai nl y because of a n a uthenti c prudery and a si ncere
sensual i t y, but thi s i s beyond reas on' s capaci ty to expl ai n, because of
a pul si onal tgure accordi ng to whi ch i nfuxes whi ch do not bel ong
to Roberte, or to anyone el se, arc di s posed of and drai n away.
Roblte i s not someone' s name ( predi cate of exi stence) , even i f thi s
were to be doubl e, i t i s the na me of t hi s unnameabl e, t he name of
Yes and No, and of bot h t he frs t and t he second, and i f the proper
name is a good exampl e of the tensori al si gn, it is not because i ts
s i ngul ar desi gnati on creates di ffcul ti es when one thi nks i n concept s,
but because i t covers a regi on of l i bi di nal s pace open to the
undefnabi l i t y of energeti c i nfuxes , a regi on i n fames .
The same goes for Schreber. I f we stick to the Memoirs of My
Nc! " I!. lffness we can sec the vertigo which is l ocalized, as i t wcre,
on the name of Flcchsi g. I must, Schreber thinks, become a woman
s o that God may i mpregnate me and so, by giving birth to new men,
accompl ish, through mc, the sal vati on of humani ty. This change of
sex is a mi racle; but every modi fcati on of t he body is a miracle i n
Schreber' s eyes and must be i mputed to a uni que force [uissance] , or
i n any case to the remarkable decisiveness of a force [uissance] (this
marking SchIeber' s rel i gi on out as being quite Roman, closely
related to the penetration of divine i nstances into the most ' quoti
di an' , the simplest , acts , of this secularization of the sacred or
s acrilization of the secul ar) . And so for defcati on: i t will provide
matter for dissimulati on, this wi l l apply to Flechsig (dissi mulated
through God) ; and i f we may describe these continual ambi valences
of the fates of the pulsion, the i mportant thing i s that there remain
no less indiscernibility of incompossibl es at every i nstant, giving
and retaining shit, Flechsi g protector and executioner, God lover
and prosecutor, my body man and woman, my di vi ne and my
human self; and still something more besides .
The Tensor 57
Defecation is not natural , but miraculous. I n this case, in this
miracle of shitting, which Frcud cites in its cntirety, we see what
delirium can accumul ate under only one name. If defecation
requires the miraculous intervention of a ' One' who is hoth Flechsig
and God at the same time, what is this the sign of Of thc l ove that
one has for Schreber, of the assistance that onc* lends hi m? No; or
rather yes, hut very indirectl y. This compassionate love is only
alluded to in the Prcsident ' s discourse, and it appears inverted. If
Flechsig-God miraculates defecation, and denics Schreber' s body
the natural use of this function, it is strictly speaking in ordcr to
facilitate the demi raculation in extremis of the act of shitting, and
thereby to persecute the President : thcy scnd pcople into the toilets
beforc him to take up all the seats . In this way, they cut short thc
' generation of an extrcmely intcnse feeling of spiritual voluptuous
ness' which accompanies successful defecation. And if they use hi m
thus, it is bccause such jouissance threatens Flechsig-God, in that it
enslavcs them to the President ' s body, as i s t he case with evcry
strong jouissance. An exampl e: ' God woul d never take any s tcps
towards cffecting a withdrawal . . . , but would quietly and
permanently yield to my powcrs of attraction, if it wcre possihle
for me always to he playing the part of a woman lying in my own
amorous embraccs , al ways to be casting my looks upon femal e
forms, al ways to be gazing at picturcs of womcn, and s o on. ' S It is
not thcreforc through l ove that one miraculates Schreberian defeca
tion, but in order to defend oneself against thc seduction it exerts .
Flechsig lover, but on thc defensive. But Flechsig persecutor, al so
fal se, who, asking Schrcber ' Why don' t you shit?' , provokcs him t o
answer: ' Because I am s o stupid or something. ' ( Flechsig humiliat
ing his victi m. Thcn again, s tupid Flechsig-God, incapable of
undcrstanding that a human crcature has no need ofthc miraculating
intervention of an All-Powcrful in order to defecatc: ' The pen
al most shrinks from recording so monumental a piece of absurdi ty
as that God, blindcd by His ignorance of human naturc, can
positively go to such lcngths as to suppose that therc can cxist a man
too stupid to do what every animal can do - too stupid to be able to
shit. '7
Don' t all thcsc contrary propcrtics simpl y form a pol yscmia
around the name of Flechsi g? Wc shall see. Hut beforc that two
Although clumsy, and apart from Lyotard' s emphasis of it. I have retained the
impersonal pronoull in accordance with Schreher' s use (see, for example, p. OOO
ahove) . - tn
58 Libidinal Economy
remarks that announce what i s to come. Fi rst: observe the immen
sity of this stupidity, which extends far beyond Bataille' s bestiality,
si ncc the latter continues to know what he is doing, even i f
consciousness no longer knows , and thi s i s the whole arepha/lic secret
of minor erotici sm, whereas with Schreber we must founder about
in the swamp of an uncertainty that fashi ons the i nstincts them
selves, montages of the beast, that we are on this side of what ani mal
acephalia knows, that the ' body' no l onger knows how to shit when
it ' nceds' to, that the shit is unaware of i ts route towards the exi t .
I ncredi ble stupidity of t he mad body, i nto which Flechsi g wi l l
plunge Schreber. As opposed to the organic body, montage of
montages, functional assembl age, erotic enlightenment, t hi s libi di
nal body appears to have no establ i shed channels for the circulation
and discharge of impul si ons . Not the profundity of stupidity, but
i mmensi t y, absence of measure. Li bidinal stupidity is somethi ng
lui te different from Bouvard and Pecuchet' s stupidi t y, which
consi sts in reciti ng, quoti ng once more by di ppi ng into the common
ji md ofstatelllents, and this is very nearly the same thing, since, like
it, it rests on the destruction of the subject capable of answering for
its words and deeds , it rests on the l oss of identity (signalled in
Fl aubert by the duo that consti tutes the stupid hero) . H Stupidity
i nseparable from the di ssi mul ation of whi ch we here speak.
Second remark: this stupi di ty turns up agai n i n the strange notion
of femininity i mplied by Schreber' s text, quoted above; it is ' there
is' woman rather than being a woman, this ' there is [ y avoir] ' being
indifferently translated by: behave like the woman in coitus and also
behave like this woman 's man ( ' pl ayi ng the part of a woman l ying i n
Iy own sext 1 l erbrces ' ) , to see \vomn, to see the 'onlan-i magc
- and further doubtlessl y: be the woman seen, etc. Once again the
stupid immensity of the libidinal band. To the proper name of
Flechsig, tensor par excellence, corresponds the becoming anony
mous of Schreber' s body - a body wi thout regulated organic
functions , a sexless or multi-sexed body. Shall we now say that this
name ' Flechsi g' i s onl y the predicate of several statements which
i mpl y that, under i t, incompossi bl e pulsions are activated together?
Flechsig loves me, since he makes me shi t-comc; Fleclsig hates me since
he forbids me to shit-come; I love it that Flechs( should hate me
because my own persecuti on is necessary i n order that I may
accompl i sh the salvation of future humani ty; I hate it that Flechsig
l oves me, for I woul d like defecation to be as natural for me as it is
for others . . .
The Tensor 59
Let us now interrupt the enumeration of these, already s i mplifed,
statements . Let' s ignore the reading that Freud makes of Schreber' s
relation to Flechsi g: i t i s an exemplary semiotic and conceptual
reading, because i t turns all these statements and several more
besides, into terminal phrases resulting from transformations
bearing on a single nucleus which would be: I (a man) love hi m (hi m, a
man)9. Transformations due, as in the unfolding of the phantasy A
Child Is Being Beaten, 10 to pulsional displacements through repres
sion or regression, therefore implying a use, hardly generati ve, of
course, but nevertheless perfectly regulated-regulatory, of
Let us rather discuss the following point: do our statements (be
they four or n in number, whatever; who would dare claim to
exhaust their potential series?) really give rise to what we s eek under
the name of dissimulation? Do they not rather provide a polysemia;
on the one hand, a homonymy, Flechsig the lover being the
homonym of Flechsig the executioner; 01 the other hand, syn
onymy, Flechsig lover and executioner being the synonym for God
(synonymous group to which Freud will not hesitate t o add the
Father) - so many rclations which are well known and will be
accepted by the semiologist, not at all as objecti ons, but as
encouragements for his method. Everything leads us to these
transformations , it i s true, through which we hardly get anywhere
near libidinal economy. I f Flechsig, like our previous example
Roberte, is a tensor sign, and not merely ' meaningful ' , it i s not
through the polysemia of statements which are attached t o her
name, i t i s through the vertigo of anal eroticism which grips the
libidinal Schreberian body of which the name of Flechsig i s the
extension. Vertigo because here once again, around the anus , the
revolution of the disj unctive bar will become furiols to the point
that the President' s arse will pass into solar incandeso:nce, t o the
specifc point where facilitating or forbidding the passage of matter
(of the feces or the divine member) will become henceforth
undecidabl e, both movements being invested and triggered off
together: ' I t is brought about by my faeces being forced forwards
(and sometimes backwards again) in my intestines ; and i f . . .
enough material is not present .
. . '
and that in this constant
struggle between constipation and diarrhoea, between hetero- and
homosexuality, between virility and femininity, it is the position of
the sun, of the gods, of the doctors , of the men, which begins to
Li bidina/ ECII OIII ),
t ur around i tsel f for bi ddi ng every st abl e di s tri buti on and al l
' t hought ' . Thi s i ncandescent vert i go bears the namc of Fl echs i g, and
i t i s i n this way t hat i t count s as a tensor si gn.
It extends t he s pinni ng-t op game beyond Schreber' s organi c
body, i nto unexpected regi ons of t he l i bi di nal band; thi s name
grasps t hem or rather br i ngs t hem i nt o exi stence at a st roke, l i ke
pi eCeS of t he vast (1 I J (l 1 l )1 I I 0I l S erect i k mani ac l abyri nt h, ah, so you
t hought you were a doct or worki ng on res t ori ng my sol a r anus t o
t he pat het i c proporti ons of pre-geni t al Oedi pal regressi on ; by
sayi ng Fl echsi g, by bui l di ng my met aphysi cal and hi s tori cal novel
on Fl cchsi g, put t i ng Fl echs i g at t he begi nni ng and at t he CI l d of my
l ovl'S and hates, I make you, doct or, not i nt o a pi ece i n my
paranoi acs' game, as you t hi nk, but i nt o an unpredi ctahl e scrap of
t he i l l l mense band where anonymous i nfuxes ci rcul at e. Your name
i s t he guarantee of anonymi t y, t he guarantee t hat these pul si ons
he/Oi l. to 1 1 0 Ol l e, t hat no one, not even t he ' doctor' , i s shel tered from
t hei r coursc and t hei r i nves t ment . Thi s i s what you fear and why
you l ock me up. What i s woven undn t he name of Fl cchs i g i s not
t hen J us t t he wi s e pol ysemi a found i n the most anodyne of
s t atl' l l l lnt s, i t i s t he i ncli l descence of a pi ece of t he body whi ch can
ha ve no fur ther assi gnati ons , for it i nvest s both t he tor and agai nst ,
and furthermore, i t i s t he transmissi on of t hi s unthi nkabl e buri ng
to other l i bi dinal regi ons, not abl y here the l anguages of history and
rel i gion, their invention and capture i n the anal verti go, thei r
sexual i zati on, as we were sayi ng, thei r pl uggi ng i nto the mad anus ,
the extension of t he l atter to the former. And so i t i s t he al leged
frontier of Schreber' s body which tlnds i t sel f vi ol ated by t hc name
of Flechsig Uust as much as the al l eged fronti er of the body of
Fl echsig) . Thi s l i mi t i tsel f i s pulverized by the vertigi nous rotation,
t he President' s body i s undone and i t s pieces arc projected across
l i bidinal space, mi ngl i ng wi th other pi eces in an inextricable
pat chwork. The head i s now si mpl y any fragment at al l of the skin.
Flcchsig my arsc. Beyond synonymy and homonymy, anonymi ty.
' Use Me '
What if this proper name were the pimp? That is to say God. Let ' s
read Schreber agai n: ' I t was menti oned i n previ olls chapters that
those rays (God' s nerves) which were attracted, tllowed onl y
reluctantly, because i t meant l osi ng their own exi stence and
The Tensor 61
therefore went against their instinct of self-preservation. Therefore
one continually tried to stop the attraction, in other words to break
free again from my nerves . . . Always the main idea behind them
was to ' forsake' me, that i s to say to abandon me; at the time I am
now discussing i t was thought that this could be achieved by
unmanning me and allowing my body to be prostituted, like that of
a female harlot, sometimes also by killing me and, l ater, by
destroying my reason (making me delirious) . ' 1 2 And Schreber adds,
like a real ' whore' : ' . . . with regard to the efforts to unman me it
was soon found that the gradual flling of my body with nerves of
voluptuousness (female nerves) had exactly the reverse effect,
because the resulting so-called ' soul-voluptuousness' in my body
had rather increased th
force of attraction. ' 1 3 Like a true whore, or
rather swept along by t he force [uissance] of dependence?
First, however, who wants this scandal, this feminizati on?
It was, moreover, perfectly natural that from the human
standpoint (which was the one by which at that time I was s till
chiefy governed) I should regard Professor Flcchsig or hi s soul as
my only true enemy - at a later date there was also the von W.
soul, about which I shall have more to say presently - and that I
should look upon God Almighty as my natural ally. I merely
fancied that He was in great straits as regards Professor Flechsi g,
and consequently felt myself bound to support Hi m by every
conceivable means, even to the length of sacrifcing myself It
was not until very much later that the idea forced itself upon my
mind that God Himself had played the part of accomplice, if not
of instigator, in the plot whereby my soul was to be murdered and
my body used like a strumpet. 1 4
The prostitute accepts prostitution in the name of a superior
interest. She wants it, and i s thus very much the same as a martyr: she
testifes through her humiliation, Magdalene as Jesus . She begins by
testifying aRainst her saviour. The dissociation of the two instances
i s still far too naIve: in terms of affects, it is God to whose eyes
sufring is exposed and to whose heart it is offered; in terms of
political economy, it is the pimp, here Flechsig, Herod, or Pilate,
who makes money from this suffering, drawing a proft from it
and thus ignoring it as such. Then in retrospect (while writing the
Memoirs: ' I may say, in fact, that this idea has in part become clearly
conscious to me only in the course of writing the present work' ) , 1 5
62 Li bidinal Economy
the two names, Flechsi g and God, are condensed, the court of appeal
proves to be j ust as cri mi nal , or even more so than the agent of the
cri me. Then the pi mp-God-doctor takes on his ful l l i bi di nal
di mensi on: the terrestri al order, says Schreber, i s trul y vi ol ated by
this project of my transformat i on into a woman (i nto a prosti tute) ,
there is no court of appeal , God is al so my prosecutor, he is not the
upri ght j udge who recei ves my pai n, he i s the pimp who necessi tates
and profts from i t, and consequentl y, he both reveals and expl oi ts i t
in the dupl i ci ty of pain-:oll issml (e.
Schreber is protesting here, and we must see in hi s struggl e to
leave the hospitals i n which they confne hi m, the same fght that a
whore may wage to escape the envi ronment and the brothel or the
crossroads where one confnes her. But thi s protestati on has i ts own
ambi val ence. For, as we have seen, Schreber desires to be God' s
prostitute, to come as a woman and to make hi m come, i f not as hi s
(male) l over, then at l east as hi s master. Thi s i s why he wants to be al l
women al l d all ll' omel l al l the ti me, and the ' endl ess l y' , the ' conti nual l y' ,
which i n hi s hands serve to defne the condi ti on whi ch accordi ng t o
hi m i s that of t he Flechsi g-God' s jouissal l (c, that theye was always
woman, this is the poor creat ure' s effort to meas ure up to di vi ne
omni temporal i ty: ' Even when I l i ved al one i n my studi o' , says
Xaviere Lafont, ' the tel ephone woul d ri ng day and ni ght, checking
on my whereabouts . . . They [the pimps 1 have al l the ti me they
need to search for you, even i n America i f they so wi shed. ' And
even when she had left her professi on, ' I was often wakened by
telephone calls i n the mi ddle of the night . . . No-one on the other
end. Only the rasp of breath, and then he hung up. '
1 6
In the formati on of thi s ambi valence whi ch confuses God and the
pi mp, God and Flechsi g, ' puni shment' i s a decisi ve element;
Schreber cal l s i t persecut i on. I t i s nevertheless i denti cal to what
Xaviere endures : bei ng l ocked up, put i nto a state of dependency,
the clinic as the l aw of the mi lieu. Here Xaviere i s exactl y ri ght:
Punishment i s sti ll the means of maki ng a human bei ng accept the
unacceptable. But it is also the s ado-masochisti c bond which ends
up making you suffer ' s omethi ng' for your cl i ent s. Thi s
somethi ng has no name. I t i s beyond l ove and hate, beyond
feeli ngs, a savage j oy, mixed with shame, the joy of submitting
to and withstanding the bl ow, of belonging to someone, and
feeling oneself freed from l i bert y. This must exi st i n al l women,
in all couples , to a lesser degree or unconsci ousl y. I woul dn' t reall y
The Tensor 63
know how to explain i t. It is a drug, it' s like having the impression
that one is living one' s life several times over all at Ollce, with an
incredible intensi ty. The pimps themselves , inficting these
punishments, experience this ' something' , I am sure of i t.
This something without a name, why then give it the name of s ado
masochism as she suggests ? We arc right at the heart of dissimula
tion. If Flechsig is the name of vertigo, the pimp or the community
of pimps is so too. What succumbs to punishment, with regard to
this verti go, is the illusion of the self ' They have succeeded, since I
now only existed through them. '
But of course, as in the dear old dialectic of the master and the
slave, this extreme dependency may be manipulated by ' the woman'
as a weapon against the dominator. In love, this may be manifest in
the feminine orgasm which pulls the body towards blinding
confusion; thus Schreber wants to be more of a woman and a
prostitute, and consequently always more mad, more ' dead' , in
order the better to seduce Flechsig and God. Is this then intention
rather than intensi ty? And ri ght where we thought we found with
Xaviere thc force, the force of powerlessness r impouvoir] ( ' I did not say
that I regret thi s life. But you wi l l al ways fail to understand this . I t is
like cocaine. Such intensity could never be found in normal life' ) ,
does this not provide a place of power and connive with every
weakness? Assuredly. But this i s no reason to crase the basic thing;
intensity is dissimulated in signs and instances . If the proper name is
pimp or God, it is also the occasion of this ' unnameable' something.
If t he sel f succumbs to dependency, it is not merely according to the
petty comings and goings of the preoccupations of power.
In the dead of ni ght, in the utter exhaustion of pal ms and
expressions, penis and vulva in rags, the earth indiscriminately
scorched, this order may yet issue from the depths of a woman' s
hoarsened throat: ' Usc me' , and this means: There is no me.
Prostitution is the political aspect of dependency, but it also has a
libidinal position besides. This is what Sade overlooked. The
question of ' passivity' is not the question of slavery, the question of
dependency not the plea to be dominated. There is no dialectic of the
slave, neither Hegel ' s nor the dialectic of the hysteric according to
Lacan, both presupposing the permutation of roles on the inside ( a space
of domination. This is all macho bullshit. ' Use me' tends towards the
direction of the erect member above the loins, the illusion of power,
of the relation of domination. But something else altogether
Li bidinal Ecoll omy
happens in these loins , s o much more i mportant, the chance of the
abolition of a centre, of a head. When the man, Flechsi g, the pi mp,
empl oys this manifest ' demand' to ' use' to become a head hi msel f,
to become power - he becomes defensive, he docs not dare l i sten to
the impact of the offer and fol l ow i t up. The passi on of passi vi ty
which sti mulates thi s offer i s not one single force, a resource of
force in a battl e, i t is force [puissance] itsel f, l i qui dating all stases
which here and there bl ock the passages of intensity. It would be
wrong to think that the spread buttocks, the anus and the anal
passage offered by the woman bent double, as though foraging, is
s ome kind of challenge i n the nature of a potl ach - ' Here' s what I ' ve
got for you, l et ' s see what you' ve got for me. ' This offer is the
opcning of the libidinal band, and it is this openi ng, this
instantaneous extension and invention that the per-broker, the
pimp, and the politician refuse themselves . They are content to use
every petty trick in order to capitalize on l ibidinal intensities i n the
i nterests of surpl us-val ue: the over-exploitation of the force of
jouissancc, l apsing into sl i my Chinese specul ations . For this interest,
thi s third party intercessi on, are doubtless al so true of the erotic
intelligence. Unless one is constrained to wonder, just as onc must
concerning the baroque machinery which connects Schreber' s body
t o Flechsig' s, whether the eroti c consi sts i n shutti ng down, hoard
ing, indeed capitalizing on force, as the abundant suggestions we
come across in Chinese texts, or i n Les Liaisons dangercuses, testify; or
i C throwing intelligence into the stakes , incorporating ' i ce' into the
energetic pathways, that i s to say the burning tension of calculati on,
having no other function than to inte1sify neglected regions and
passages; and not intensifcatIOn by means of the counterpoint of
secondarity, calculation, the other s pace-ti me, the other body,
contrasted or al ternated with pri macy, but through the heightening
of intensities, through the incorporation oj the head i nto the libidinal
band, by setting the capital and capital ist machines to work for the
benefit of pulsional circulations, through the eroticization of the
understanding. I magine the little busi nessman or the little account
ant placing his base arts in the service of his glands .
So, Sade' s stupidity which Kl ossowski , even i n ' Le Philosophe
s cderat ' , 1 7 is unable to shake ot At least the stupidity of a Sade.
There is another Sade, who i s Spi noza and Lucreti us, the Sade of
' Fran<ais , encore un effort pour etre rcpublicains ' , a libidinal
material i st, the one we here desire and desire t o sustain.
The Tensor 65
' Use me' is an order and a s upplication, i mperious supplicant - but
what she demands is the abolition of the I1You relati on (which is,
like the master/slave, reversible) and also the use-relation, of course.
This supplicant would appear to be pure religiosity insofar as she
demands dependence. I sn' t this what Jesus Christ said on the cross?
But Jesus can demand dependence because he offers his body in
payment for the sinners : the exorbitance of his suffering, of his
abandonment , the terrible Schreberian demiraculation that he
endures, the relinquishment perpetrated and fulflled by he who is
loved and who is thus all-powerful - this exorbitance, Jesus sets it as
the price for the redemption of sinners . Jesus i s consequently a
calculating prostitute. You have me die, this is wrongdoing, but
through this the whole world will be saved: the perverts or cretins
(' they know not what they do' ) will be redeemed in the gracious
body of creation, that is to say, of capital. And God is a pimp,
saying to Jesus , his woman, as he says to Schreber: do this for me, do
it for them. Would you say he wins Jesus over? And I answer: he
wins a prostitute, who sells the most unexpected parts of his body,
his looks , his sartorial skills, his shoes, and does he win Schreber?
This is not the ques tion. The prostitute, like Jesus and Schreber,
invents herself and poses as a subj ect through the calculation, even if
it is pure phantasy which she imposes, and which suffces to convert
perversion to concentrate i t . And don' t forget that, like Jesus and God
as well, the prostitute is of course her client, but she i s also his
procurer. The mystery of the Trinity which is that of Similitude is
the very machinery which produces the meaningful sign and
dissimulates the tensor si gn. Once again, don' t let yourself be taken
' Use me' : a statement of vertiginous simplicity, it is not mystical,
but materiali st. Let me be your surface and your tissues, you may be
my orifces and my palms and my membranes , we could lose
ourselves, leave the power and the squalid justifcation of the
dialectic of redemption, we will be dead. And not: let me die by your
hand, as Masoch said. Here lies the wreckage of the supreme ruse,
voluntary or involuntary, s o that this ultimate order, emanating
from the body already exhausted by caresses and insomnia, resurges
in the howl of unleashed partial drives, the subject-function.
Hegelian gloss of the supplicant : be my master, your will be done.
This is how Sade, Freud and Bataille understand it, introducing
politics even here, and therefore order all over again, strategy, the
rationality of war, Laclos and Clausewitz.
Li bidi nal Economy
But what does she want , she who asks thi s , in the exasperation and
aridi ty of every piece of her body, the woman-orchestra? Does she
want to become her mast er' s mistress and s o forth, do you think?
Come on! She wants you t o die with her, she desires that the
excl usi ve l i mi ts be pushed back, sweeping across al l the tissues, the
i mmense tacti l i t y, the tact of whatever cl oses up on i tsel f without
becomi ng a box, and of whatever ceasel ess l y extends beyond itsel f
wi thout becomi ng a conquest. I n the face of thi s , the sel f-obsessed
mediocri ty of he-men( ! ) who sni gger whi l e thinking they are
unmasking and expl oi ti ng the hysteri c or the woman and her al l eged
li e, a mediocri ty simil ar to the pol i ti ci ans, written i n the note which
Lenin sent by courier through the corridors of the Winter Pal ace to
Trotsky ( we are not exaggerating at al l ) : ' What if the White Guards
kil l you and me? Wi l l Svyerdl ov and Bukharin be abl e to manage? ' ,
I t
the words of a mi ddl eman, best descri bed by Xavicre again: ' At
fi rst , you take t hem for ' bon vi vants ' . They are well dressed, often
sl i ghtl y effemi nate. They are not necessari l y homosexual s, but you
feel that they coul d be. I n any case they are not great l overs . They
al ways go about i n groups . ' For they require an organi zati on, those
vi l l age perverts , as Deleuze and Guattari (themsel ves) s ay.
' What does a woman want ? ' as ked Freud. She wants t he man t o
become neither man nor woman, t hat he no l onger age at al l , t hat she
and he, diferent peopl e, be identical i n the insane connections of
every tissue. ' I t woul d be more in keepi ng wi th the realization of
desi re, in t he afterlife, that one be there fnally delivered from
sexual difference' , writes Schreber, citing Mignon' s song i n
Wilhelm Meister: ' Und jene hi mml ischen GestaltenlSie fragen nicht nach
Mann und Weib [ And these celestial fgures , They no longer ask
whether one is man or woman] . ' And so this will that everything
fare up and catch fre i s called the death drive by the thinkers , of
course( ! ) , those who think only, i n the name of l ife, of collecti ng,
uniting, capitalizing, conqueri ng, extendi ng, closing up and domi
nating. The Greeks Lenin and Trotsky, pederasts who go about in
groups, prostituting the women-masses . But incl uded i n their
i nfamous proper names as directors, the insane petition of the
masses, which i s not ' Long live the Soci al ! ' (and s till less ' Long live
the Organization! ' ) , but ' Long l i ve the libidinal ! '
Si mulacrum and Phantasm
With the proper name and its di ssimulation, we approach one of the
epicentres of the Klossowskian problematic, present in his reading
The Tensor 67
of Nietzsche, of Fourier, of Sade, in his philosophy of writing, of
narration, of politics; Klossowski himself draws attention to this
epicentre in 'Protase et apodose': 19 'We come then to the meaning of
the simulacrum (in the interpretation which St Augustine gives to
this term, according to Varro's theologica theatrica), taken up again by
me in Le Bain de Diane and Le Cercle vicieux, in relation to the
phantasm (Wahnbild and Trugbild).'
First of all, what is the simulacrum, in Augustine's polemic
against Roman paganism? What is at stake under the name of
simulacrum is the very position of the sign which we have just
criticized, its theological stock. In The City of Cod, Augustine takes
as his adversary and as the representative of Roman paganism,
Varro the theologian, the grammarian, philologist, rhetorician, and
will attempt to turn him into an accomplice. Varro distinguishes
three theologies: one natural, discursive, philosophical, which
Augustine means to recover and save; another mythic, theatrical,
gestural, poetic (these are his words); and fnally a civil or civic,
political theology. Augustine's strategy consists in dissociating the
two latter fom the former, presenting the last two as infamous
parodies of the frst one, the only honest one, for these parodies
sanction not only circus games, but the political game as a circus.
And facing this parodic politics, he will set up a natural politics, a
philosophical politics, a divine citizenship. Subsequently he must
therefore extract politics from the theatrical, show that everything
which rests on theatricality, representation, is to be rejected in
imperial politics, with the motive that 'we cannot ask or hope for
eternal life from the gods of poetry and the theatre, the gods of the
games and the plays.
(And why not? Why should the criterion of
eternal life be pertinent to theological and political matters? And is
there not an eternity in the intense instant of a circus game? Is death
not included injouissance?)
Thus Augustine sets up a theatre, he circumscribes an inside and
an outside which in fact, in Roman public life, were not separate - at
least we are going to phantasize them in this way - which are even
non-existent as opposed terms, if, as Varro says, it is true that the
theatrical is only the mirror of the political, as the political is for the
natural, if there is a non-degenerating equivalence between the two
and if it is ruled out that the transcendence of the 'natural divine'
could be set up as such. Let's take our interpretative phantasy
further: natural theology is philosophical; the principal site of
Lihidinal Economy
investment here is language. What is natural theology? The libido
inventing unheard-of statements, adding supplicative phrases to the
pulsional band, prayers, apologias, refexive metaphysics. Strange
work in the flesh of words, where the term natt/re, since the Stoics,
occupies a conspicuous place, an arbitrary term if it is a term at all,
the idea of an autonomy, but enveloping and penetrating every
thing, not an outside over there to be regained by ridding oneself of
a false immanence here, but on the contrary a force [puissancc]
immanent to all things and as such never dissociable. In conse
quence, both civil and theatrical theology tur out to be sanctioned
by this natural theology: the frst of these two signifes that the libido
invests its energies of life and death on the space of the city, and that
it frst circumscribes this space, and still earlier that it illVe/lts
additions to the labyrinthine band who would be 'politicians', a
whole imagination of the civitas or the politcil, of the equality of
men within it, the position of women, of slaves, children on its
peripheries, and also the invention of new statements once again,
rhetorical and not philosophical. It is not, however, a question of
this invention being less noble, that is, discredited, with regard to the
natural. The political and the natural for the Stoic and Sceptic
religion of these Romans arc not hierarchized, there is nothing less
nco-Platonic than these warrior-erotician-banker-philosophers. It is
the same for the theology of poetry and mythology, it is no longer a
question of their being discredited, since this theology attests to the
fct that other investments in language are still possible, those which
produce statements which in Plato and Augustine are (down)c1assed
as imaginary or fantastic, under the pretext that these propositions
which create taies, epics, dramas, lyrics, novels, are not 'true'. (And
the ghettoization of art and artists begins here, in The Republic, and
not therefore only with the bourgeoisie.) And under its theatrical,
gestural form (which Augustine particularly studies), this produc
tion of gods is an invention not only of new words and syntaxes,
but also of spatial and sonorous arrangements, it is not exclusively
inscribed in languages, but also in movements of the body, being
provided with actions, costumes, masks, musical instruments,
buildings, that is to say these elements are the most materially
arbitrary, the most libidinally effcient.
In consequence this Roman theatre, this theatricality of the circus
and the political assembly, far from implying the Platonic division
of the cave, which is effectively the theatrical division between a
The Tensor 69
real outside and an inside simulating this outside (to simplify), rests
on the contrary on the conviction that everything is a sign or a mark, but
that nothing is marked or signifed, that in this sense, signs are signs of
nothing, not in the sense that they refer to a zero which would be
what causes them to signify, but in the precise sense in which we
have spoken of tensor signs: each thing and part-thing being on the
one hand a term in a network of signifcations which are unremitting
metonymic referrals, and indiscernibly, on the other hand, a
strained singularity, an instantaneous, ephemeral concentration of
It is this wise affrmative madness which Augustine wants to
destroy in the interests of nihilist wisdom, the present intensity is
not only devalued, but almost obliterated, where the concept of
conscious time, ceaselessly referring the event from instance to
instance in the to-ing and fro-ing of the future and past, will
demand that the entire network of absences be hung on a Presence,
on a Present omnitemporally real, but itself absent, where with this
tissue of referrals the semiotic machine is henceforth in position
ready to close every intensity up in a sign, as a value standing for
something absent.
This is where the Augustinian thesis of the simulacrum takes up
its position, the thesis of generalized Similitude, that is to say the
basis of every semiotics, or at least every metaphorics: everything is
what it is because each thing resembles another thing, and given this
there must be a Resemblance, a Similitudo, by participation in which
all similar things are similar. Augustine calls this metoche the Word:
the son a perfect imitation of the father, representing what the latter
engenders in such a complete and thorough manner that the son is
what he imitates while remaining quite distinct from the father, the
mystery of duality within unity which is the same as the enigma of
the sign. The son or word is the Simulacrum in itself if it is true that
the image or simulacrum relationship between the two terms has to
be one not only of similitudo, but of engenderment: the son, exactly
like the father is also what emanates from him. All things are
therefore in a relation of resemblance if they are not all images of
one another; and of course a hierarchy of things is established which
depends on the contents of the similitudo (and correlatively those of
the dissimilitudo) in their interrelations. And if the father-son relation
gives the resemblance itself which the whole inferior hierarchy, to
its lowest depths, will participate in, on the contrary, there must be
7() Libidinal Ewnomy
the least resem bl ance, the most dissimilar, the dis-simulated and the
dis-si milated; and since nothing exists but through similitude,
nothing which is not a si mul acrum, the absolutel y dissimil ar would
be nothingness . 21 The last being, ifit is not not hingness, is at least an
il lusory simul acrum. This is the body: 'Vos quidem', says
Augustine,22 nisi a/iqlli III/ita. contillcret ({orpus), nihilcs.eti., sed mrsus
.i J(l. essetis ipsa l!('rita., corpora nOli cssctis.' So if there is a corporeal
unity, it is al most by paral ogism: the unity of the body can only be
infinitel y precarious , and, as far as the general theory of the
s i mul acrum is concered, false. (Its precariousness pl eases us, its
'Cdsity' has no other meaning tor us than that it situates this thesis of
si mulacra as a pathetic theory of truth.)
III this hierarchy of si militude, the theatricality of nihilist
representation is set up. The truth of a being, since we must speak in
this way, taken as a sign, turs out to be situated ollt5ide the sign, and
even, since Augustine conceives of the sign under the category of
the meta phor, ahove it. This being 5ignifes sOleth illg other than what it
is: it signifes that of which it is the simubcrum, but, because it is not
what it signifies , it also signifes the distance which keeps them apart,
dissimilitude, the l ack of being (mallqlc d'Nre) which separates them.
(This is why the Victorins, and the whol e hermetic tradition before
them, can say that ugliness, which attests to this separation, is
precisely what does most honour to the divine. ) Nihi l i sm in its
entirety stands here: meaning deferred, and l ack slips into this
defrral. There is the same construction in Hegel: between one
formation (Gesta/tung) and another, an identity-alterity s plit, other
names for resemblance-di ssi mi litude, and i n the Aujelmng, con
sCIOusness of then mdl ssoClablhty. The trinitary theme is given
st raightaway in Graeco-Christian thought. Thereafter, there are
only variations of the above. Look, for example, at Augustinian
trinitarism as he makes i t plain in the De trinitate (XI, 8, 14), where it
st ates: 'Sen5u5 aaipit speciem ab eo corpore quod 5entimu5, et a 5ensu
memoria, a memoria vero acies cogit<ntis',Ll, and compare it with the
'Young-Hegelian' refection found in the 1803 4 manuscript, where
the master dialectician writes: 'Col our i n its three Potential ities: i n
sensation, as the determinacy of blue for example, and then as a
concept, as it is related to the other [colours] as opposed to these
colours, equal to them, [therefore, colour consists 1 i n that colours
are colours and thereby exist i n a si mple and universal manner as
colour. '24 Thus: 1st, this blue, a s a singularity = the Augustinian
The Tensor 71
sensus; 2nd, blue as such, as opposed to red as such, as oppositional
reference to the other names = memoria; 3rd, colour as such, the meta
unity of the blue, the red, etc. = Augustine's acies.
The thing stands for something else, and it is less than what it
represents. In order that it be what it is, there has been a lack of
being. What is given to us, insofar as it is not similitude itself, is
defcient in force [uissance]. The theatricality of representation implies
this defciency, this depression. It is in and through this defciency
that the fgure of alienation comes about. E. df Negri25 retraces the
genealogy of this term: Paul wrote of the incarnation that Christ
'was utterly crushed by taking on a servile image' (Philippians 2: 6
7); ekenOsen, says the Greek, rendered by the Vulgate as exinanivit,
'drained away, worn out'. It is through Luther, who translated: 'hat
sich selbs geeussert' ('esus was taken outside himself) that Hegel
receives this nihilist tradition, and will transmit it to Marx and the
politicians under the name of alienation.
It is just the same for whomever the metonymic sign is offered
to. What is given to me through the sign is exactly what has been
rejected, and it will be constituted as the collection of the memories
of signs to be signifed and of anticipations of the signifcation to be
made manifest as signs. It will form its semiological being in the
fusion of two nothings, past and future. This semiological being
called consciousness will thereby produce what is called tem
porality, on the basis of the nihilism constitutive of the sign: 'The
death which the soul must conquer is not so much the one death
which puts an end to life, as the death which the soul ceaselessly
experiences for as long as it is alive in time. '26 Absent subject, dead
life, signifcation lacking, signs marks of incompleteness, negative
temporality, death as deliverance, the transfer of true life to an
elsewhere: semiotic metaphysics with all its ins and outs; and nihilist
theology. It is on and with this generalized lack that the great
Signifer is constructed, the great God, also absent, but alleged
principle of all presence and signifcation. Master of signs and their
ek-sistence, amen. Do you see how love of linguistics, love of
psychoanalysis, and their conjugation is able to register the least
rupture by reference to this theology? Don't you see rather that they
are rejections or resurgences of this theology? of the same theology,
of the same disappearance of the pulsional body in a discourse of
On the other hand, there is the phantasm in Klossowski's sense of
the word. Not the little mise en seerle, the day-dream or the Traum; not
7' I jbidinal ECOIlOI
the l i ttl e story one tel l s oneselC or whi ch even tel l s i tsel f ( for
exampl e i n the hysteri cal attack, the scenario); and nei ther i s i t the
matri x that di rects - as Freud unders tands them, both are, once
again, substi tutes for something el se, there to repl ace the s<tisjaction
of a forbidden desi re, to be a vi carious stand-in for an i mpossibl e
l i bidi nal meaning, and like any semi ol ogi cal s ign, arc buil t from
lack. What Kl ossowski understands by the name pha/ltasm woul d
indeed be better concei ved, as Kl ossowski hi msel f s uggests, as an
object jabricated out of pul sional force tured away from i t s
' normal' usc, as a generator; unl ess i t i s a matter of the 'perverse'
phantas m which i s set up in Sade's work (and al so ill Kl ossowski's).
Let's leave the question raised by this 'turi ng-away' for the
1I10Illent, in which, i t is pl ai n, we will recogni ze the same nihi l i sm
we have just denounced i n t he theory of t he si mul acrum, and
therefore t he persi stence in Kl ossowski, and doubtl ess al so i n Sade,
under the idea of perversion, of a theol ogy of dissi mi litude
belongi ng necessari l y to the Augus tinian theol ogy of Similitlldo.
Let's l eave thi s di scussi on for a moment , remarking befrehand that
the suggested positi on of the phantasm, which makes of i t
sOl1Jethi ng l i ke a manutctured obj ect, a product the 'consump
t i on'27 of which woul d be the vol uptuous emotion itsel f, i s , in this
regard at l east, ful l y affrmative: the pieces of the postured body
which produce pul sional force and which are vainl y consumed as
i ntensi ties of jouissance, are then conceived as substitutes for nOfhin,,
they are those very things engendered by t he i mpul sion by means of
i ts intensifcation and circul ati on, are pieces 'invented' and added as a
pat chwork to the libidinal band. And j us t as i t i s then necessary, if
we maintain the analogy suggested in La M01l1aie vivante between the
phantas mati c and producti on, to conceive the l at ter under the same
category as perpetual metamorphosi s, so we wil l concl ude that there
are no more objects or subjects i n the perpetual transformation of
l i bidinal energies than there are in that of al l possi bl e energies in the
heart of the so-cal l ed production process in the wider sense. We
certainl y l ay no cl aim to such an analysi s , and Kl ossowski is far
from being compl etel y won over by it; but it has , at l east, the
advantage of making modern minds , convinced of the positivity of
political economy, i magine what the posi ti vi ty oflibidinal economy
mi ght be. The phantasm here is not an unreal ity or a dereal i ty, i t i s
'something' which grips the crazy t urbul ence of the libi do, some
thing it invents as an incandescent obj ect, and which i t
The Tensor 73
instantaneously adds to the band traced by its trajectory. Just like a
product, all things being equal. And under these conditions, there is
no justifcation - still on condition that the Sadean-Klossowskian
theme of the turning-away of forces is ignored - in searching for a
truth of this 'object" -phantasm outside it, instantiating its signifca
tion on a great Signifer. Strictly speaking its signifcation is quite
simply not in question. (But we know that one cannot sustain this, we
know . . . )
Since there is no semiotic nor any intelligent sign without the most
rudimentary memory, the 'semiotic' of intensities which
Klossowski draws out at the end of Nietzsche et ie (ercle vicieux
always involves an amnesia. (There again, of course, in the very
word 'amnesia', it will not be diffcult to spot, in what it includes of
the negative, the recurrence of a secret reference to a body that
remembers, to an organic body. Is it our fault if we are required,
line after line, patiently (and uselessly), to dissociate what belongs to
the understanding from what belongs to intensity?) Thus, says the
Baphomet, 'memory is the domain (of the creator), mine is my self
forgetting in those who are reborn in me'. And even this proper
name of Baphomet, 'one cannot remember it as long as one is still
coming back to oneself.
Proper name of the return, which is not
coming back to oneself, but rather the aleatory and instantaneous
trajectory, not even Oller a libidinal body pre-existing this trajectory,
but forming pieces of this body, lost at the very moment it is
formed. This is why the Baphomet can say: 'I am not a creator who
enslaves being to what he creates, what he creates to a single self, and
this self to a single body . . . I am not a master who reaps, as He
docs, what he has not sown. '
That one is, with this strange 'semiotic', indeed closer to the
evanescent labyrinthine band traced by intensities, Klossowski
demonstrates by forging the phantasy of the interpenetration or
immediate invasion of 'intentions' by one another in minds deprived
of bodies, and it will not be hard to understand that this body of
which the 'breaths' are deprived is precisely the dull, odious, inept
organic body of the habeas corpus, of having and memory:
As soon as one pointed out anything whatsoever, beginning with
the fct of being able to do without the body, one changed
oneself in changing each 'interlocutor': one changed oneself in the
sense that he who expresses himself bodilessly immediatel y passes
into the thing expressed; and at the same time one changed the one
74 Lihidill al ECo/l Omy
whom ol l e was addressi ng, i ll the sense that he who receives the
expressi on of a thi ng that he nevertheless al ready knows and sees
inside hi msel f, experiences i n this very understandi ng the way of
seei ng of the one addressi ng i t to hi m . . . For as thei r bodies 110
longer i mposed any l i mits on their res pecti ve i ntenti ons, they
mutuall y invaded each other.
The question of vi ol ence, theil , is posed wi th a quite new si mpl i ci ty,
it is di spl aced i nto all i ndifrent and tender cruelty:
Yet what e we say of the viol ence of one breath towards
another? Can the latter condelil the frst for having destroyed i ts
fragile habi tati on, when it shoul d be free of all need to remain the
same? . . Rel ieved of the need to remain the same, the victi ms'
breaths merge wi t h the victi mizers once t hey sec t hem comi ng.
The l atter seem not to know the shame of seeing themselves thus
welcomed by the others . No accusati ons or regrets on either si de,
and no forgi veness . . . There i s no moral atonement here, and
such coul d hardl y he requi red. A vi olence of another order is bor
of our condi tion: it i s effected by means of a total i ndi fference. It
is this indifference itself and i t leaves no trace, whi ch i s the worst
form of violence! \ I
The suppression of memorable and mnesi ac bodies permits the
interpenetration of intenti ons, that i s to say their abol i ti on for the
beneft of anonymous i ntensi ti es, for which there remains no
i ns tance to answer and to l i mit.
This i ndi fference, whi ch has nothi ng to do with being cold, i s
that of the fre whi ch burns everythi ng infammable. Li ke the bar
turing on jbdf, it leaves no trace, if i t i s true that the great ski n i s
never given i n i ts enti rety and that i n thi s sense there i s no worl d, no
body, 110 inscription becaus e there i s no assi gnable site of i nscri pti on.
Only punctual i ncandescenccs, wi thout i nstanti ati on. Thi s i s what
we see: the same palm whi ch an instant ago was gliding over the
material covering the breasts and brushi ng the pale surfaces of the
pronators, now so tense i t mi ght burst, sweeps down i n several
brusque sl aps between the legs, onto the vul va. This i s what we see:
the person doing the beating i s the frst surpri se. This i s what we see:
the thrashed surfaces curl up, the fngers previ ousl y i n abandon
between the legs, sti l l moi st from the jui ces of the sl i t, forming a
l attice before the eyes to protect them so that they may continue to
see. We see fear everywhere, before the absurdi ty of thi s event, we
The Tensor 75
will come to comprehend that between this phantasy of a supreme
indifference by excess of interpenetration on the one hand, and the
rather Sadean theory of the phantasm on the other, there must exist a
kind of hesitation, and perhaps incompatibility. There is as much
indifferent invasion of intensities inscribed necessarily in an eternal
turn where identities, and previously therefore proper corporeal
volumes, are lost, as there are on the contrary required by the
phantasm, just like an industrial product in the universe of
appropriation and reserve. The emotion capable of arousing the
phantasm and in which it is consumed does not in any way issue
from the immediate, violent and anonymous, ephemeral inter
penetration of breaths, that is to say from libidinal impulsions; on
the contrary, it results and grows from the existence of a body, that
of the 'victim', on the surface of which the irritating manoeuvres of
the perversion will set up afuxes of disorder and whose disarray
and relinquishment will return, in the form of a voluptuous fux, to
assail the surfaces of the body of the 'executioner'.
If, as has been divined, the phantasm retains its force of the
turning-away of energies far from reputedly natural ends, if it does
so only insofar as it presupposes and maintains a reference to a
unity, this is what intensifes voluptuousness, not through the loss
of identities, but only through their transgression. Perversion, says
Klossowski commenting on Sade, is what is 'proper to the
decomposition of what the term of sexuality embraces in a generic
manner, that is on the one hand, as the voluptuous emotion prior to
the specifc act of procreation, and on the other hand as the specifc
instinct of procreation, two propensities whose confusion founds
the unity of the individual proper to his reproduction'. 32 Here we
clearly see everything that may remain of the Christian and the
nihilist in a solely criminal philosophy: that intensity issues fom the
decomposition of sexuality held to be naturally or divinely propaga
tive, we must conclude that it is only in regard to this natural or this
divine, in short to the absent body of the signifer, that it exists.
Almost all of Sade, once again, is to be added to a file, beginning
with the use of blasphemy that he recommends to intensify
jouissance and which clearly shows the role that God continues to
play in its formation. The Klossowskian phantasm, on the other
hand, wants, somewhere, at least one body to transgress: for it consists
precisely in afragmentary use of the body of the victim, where the act
of exceeding its reproductive fnality will be an occasion for
76 Lihidinal Economy
voluptuousness, when a particular fragment of its surface will be,
so to speak, removed from the total volullle. There would be no
belief in God; that would already have to be called sacrilege. Every
treatment of a spherical volume as if it were a fnite surface is
blasphemous. When, instead of helping the male member to engage
with its vaginal refuge, the palm constrains it to circumscribe and to
stroke an armpit, a buttock, an car - blasphemy. But such indeed is
the phantasm for Klossowski: not, of course, a substitute for an
impossible 'reality', as Freud understands it, but the cutting-out
from the other's body of a fraction of its surfaces, and the
annexation of this to the body of the phantasizing subject.
SYI/tax as Skin
It is not easy, as we can sec, to follow the fault-line between the
intelligent sign and the intense sign. At the heart of the
Klossowskian phantasm, however strongly affirmative, we again
fnd the instantiation, the referral of the emotion to a total body,
which will moderate it. In other words, in the lcxis of pagan
theatrics, the divine names which Augustine derides arc already
functional names, names of functions, and do not thcrefre count
as this anonymous proper name which we have attempted to get at
through the name of Flechs(f for exampk, but rather count as kinds
of agents [artantsl in a narrative structure. What is made apparent by
this agent-function of the fragment of the body in play in the
Klossowskian phantasm, is even something like libidinal currency,
or rather like the libido in so Jar as it cal be exchanged Jor mone
, if it is
true that the phantasm of desire, inexchangeable in itself, fnds,
however, in its constitutIve reference to the alleged Body, which is a
'universal' (like 'colour' for Hegel), its capacity as a negotiahle thing.
Incipient prostitution; la Tosca before long (did you really believe
she made genital love with Cavaradossi?).
Augustine, ears pricked, does well out of our retreat: to admit that
Pertunda and the others are alread y communicable and exchangeable
abstractions does not tell the whole story, he will say, you ought still
to recognize that my God became fesh, that the engendering of his
son, through the good theory of Similitudo, is a movement towards
singularity and dissemblance, towards the intensity of pain and
pleasure. Do we not also discover here the principle of indiscernibles
reversed, to which Freud has already led us when Eros and the death
drives are in question?
The Tensor
Don't let's go too fast, let's distinguish, become more refned.
There is in Klossowski a theory of the si mulacrum; it is different
from Augustine's. It does not say: everything is simulacrum, a
substitute lacking, what's more, an infnite wealth, the rejected
residue of a divine Body; it is not Platonic; it says: apart from, and
no less real than, phantasms (Klossowski never doubts the real) there
are verbal, plastic or written transcriptions of these phantasms, there
are artefacts which count as inexchangeable phantasms. Here then is
the exclusi ve rclation that Klossowski admits between the volup
tuousness object and its simulacrum: 'If the phantasm is in each in
fact a singular case - to defend it against institutional signifcation
given it by the gregarious group, the singular case cannot but have
recourse to the simulacrum: that is a counting-as its phantasm -so it is
for a fraudulent exchange between the sinliar case and the
gregarious generality .. . The singular case disappears as such from
the moment it s ignies what it isfor itself in the individual it is only his
species case which assures his intelligibility. Not only docs it
disappear as such as soon as it formulates its own phantasm: for it
cannot do so save through instituted signs - but it cannot be
reconstituted by these signs without thereby excluding from itself
all that becomes intell igi bl e in it, exchangeable. '33
The simulacrum, because it is communicable (perhaps even
destined to communicate the intransmittability of the phantasm),
introduces exchangeability: therefore it is money, a sign, it counts as
something other than its own material and arrangement, and it is
devoted to circulation. Let us now examine the union of the
phantasm and the simulacrum: it supposes both an 'adulterous
coherence' and a 'fraudulent exchange', these are Klossowski's
words: an adulterous coherence because, in order that the intellect
can transcribe the phantasm in communicable signs, it must take the
side of intensity against the unifed body of the subject and society,
without which the simulacrum it forges would not be a simulacrum
of anything at all. Sade's intelligence 'fools' the institution with
intransmittable passionate singularity. The fraudulent exchange,
however, in the signs employed to forge the simulacrum, to recount
stories, to paint tableaux vi vants, cannot but betray and disguise the
inane intensity, which, moreover, is already lost when it is de
clared. Hardly any divergence between libidinal economy, by the
coherence it demands of the intellect, and political economy in the
necessarily fraudulent exchange that it sanctions with instituted
7H Li bidinal Economy
sIgns, thc si mul acrum rcpcats in i ts dupl i ci ty that whi ch wc ncvcr
cease to fnd in signs: i t i s at once a vai n passi onate si gn and an
exchangeable rational si gn; at once voul oi r i n the sense of Wille, and
vouloir dire i n the sensc of meani ng.
Yet this comffting agrcemcnt descrves to be broken. Lct
5 pl ay
the disciple, much morc di l i gcnt, of thc master of tahleaux vi vants;
wi th him, we must push the pri nci pl e of dupl i city much furthcr.
Language, so far as l i ngui sti c s i mul acra arc concerncd, is not onl y
the exchange, evcn thc fraudul ent exchangc, of the phantasm, i t i s
al so itsdfinexchangeabil i t y and i ntense si ngul ari ty: ' For i f we have
recoursc to l anguagc, i t i s because, through thc fi xi ty of si gns, i t al so
offers the equivalent of our obsti nate singul ari t y. '34 The rdation of
the l i ngui sti c si mul acrum to the phantasm i s not onl y one of
substitution, of counting-as, of t he intclli gent sign - i t i s al so t hat of
a recovery, of a trespass; both are of t he same i l k, one docs not hide
the other, i ts val uc is not only that of i ts capacity as a medi ator of
exchange ( of purchase), of a postponemcnt, but al so of an actual
!<,Y(e [Pl/iSSatla I. The book, through i ts text, is l i ke the ski n of
a body. At t he beginning of Le5 Lois de l 'hospitalite, Kl ossowski
wri tes: ' My syntax consti tutes the ti ssues of Roberte' s skin. ' I f the
text is a phantasm, i t i s i ndeed, i n Klossowski ' s eyes, because of i t s
proper infexibi l i ty. The excl usi ons of possible s yntaxes and seman
ti cs that consti tute styl e produce on the skin of language the same
effects of intensifcation, of charge and drai nage as can be obtained
from certain feshy surfaces through the austere rigour of an erotic
Do we then rediscover the condi ti on proper to the Klossowski an
plldIltasfl, counting oni y as an afct insofar as i t i s referred to a
unitary instance? No, it is somethi ng else al together, qui te a
di fferent understanding of the term, qui te di fferent, and ful l y
bound up wi th what we have j us t sai d concerning the 'fraudulent
exchange' , whi ch we have come to understand as betrayal of
intensity by the intellect, and whi ch we must now understand as
investment i n intelligent commerce itself by emotional afuxes .
The fraud here is that under the pretext of rendering the phantasm
communicable, and transl ati ng i t i nto si gns and s yntax, these are the
fgures of l anguage whi ch wi l l i n their turn recei ve their libidinal
charge. The ni hi l i st capaci ty for pos tponement and regul ated
oppositions, i s what i s invested now by desire i n the si mul acrum,
and which will give to this l atter the consi stency of the phantasm:
The Tensor 79
for indeed, the fgure of l anguage, 'syntax' , does not count only as
the substitute for surfaces of fesh invaded and annexed in the
consumption of the phantasm, rather it is such a surface. The signs
which the pen traces on the paper are not simply means of
communicating a n emotion which i s outside them, and which
would be, so to speak, lost due to the fact that it was written (writing
being thus understood in a properly nihilist way, as Blanchot does,
'to write i s to kill, that' s all ' ) , but these written signs being
simultaneously, by themselves, not in spite of but by dint of and in
proportion to their rigidity and invariance, products of phantasma
tic consumption.
We here perceive in outline what, for us, is the most important
thing of all, the possibility of i magining syntax, the law of value,
and fnally trade, and hence this meta-trade which is capital, as
intensive regions, not merel y deintensifying, like rags of the
patchwork added hy the mad rotation of the disjunctive bar. We
perceive this monstrosity: this bar which disj oins, and which
thereby delimits properties (body, goods, Self, and regulates
transfers from one to the other, which is therefore the basis of the
law of exchange, called the l aw of value or the cost of production
itself - if i t itself i s 'invested' , if it itself is what serves as the obj ect
of attraction for the pulsions, it is necessary that at the same time it
separates and distinguishes, and in doing this, it burns and mixes the
reserves that it regulates in its insane rotation, its syntatic 'icc' must
be its incandescence. This i s s o, of course, at the price of allowing
this imagination, and of grasping its range as the possibility that one
will be able to understand how writing and negotiating and
capitalizing can produce ecstasy. La Monnaic vilante lLi ving Cur
rency] means : intense intellect, priceless trade, impassioned reason.
Once again then, the duplicity of the sign, the question of which
may now be formulated in these terms: when the emotion
(phantasm) speaks (simulacrum), is it not necessary that there be
adultery or prostitution? Adultery of words with intensities to the
detriment of the concept, prostitution of intensity in the interests of
exchanges. I f for Klossowski the art of making simulacra i s t o be
classed under the rubric of adultery because i t is the law of s yntax i n
all i t s rigour, t he disj unctive bar, which finds itself i nvested as an
opportunity for jouissance and vertigo - for Baudelaire, it is with
prostitution that the artistic action of transl ating phantasms into
simulacra must be identifed. We remember: 'What is love? - the
HO Lihidirwl ECONOIY
need to escape oneself . . . Al l l ove is al so prostituti on. ' And: 'What
is art? Prostitution. ' 'The day the young wri ter corrects his first
proofs, he is as proud as a schol ar who has just caught his frst
pox. ` I n dandyi sm, jollissarIce i s i nstanti ated on the uni versal i zati on
of trade and the concomi tant destruction of every eloquent emoti on,
as Batai l l e says on the subject of Manet; thi s i s the system' s i cc
incarated in new sl uts , compl etel y st ri pped of al l romanti ci sm, of
all nostal gi a for al l el sewhere, ' pi ti l ess Sages ' , machines for
cal culating as accuratel y as possi bl e the price of every demand
i ssui ng from the cl i ent whi ch ai ms for an eroti c manoeuvre not
progra mmed in current consumpti on, col d machines whose cal cul
able automati sm, far from decei vi ng the dandy, rushes hi m towards
t he zenith of his jOllissancl'.
The theme of adul tery in Kl ossowski ' s work, for exampl e, i n Lcs
Lois dl' l 'lwspifal i fc, brings the theme of prosti tuti on with it. I f the
husband becomes his wi fe' s pi mp, if he pushes her into his
nephew's arms, i t i s not so that on this occasion l ibidinal energy may
be converted i nto money that he wi l l col l ect, it i s not so that the
tensor signs of the perverse emoti on give way to the i ntel l i gent si gns
of the trade of pi mps, it i s i n order to assess the i mpossi bl e price he
accords to Roberte, and therefore to i ntroduce measure, wei ght and
thought i nto the unthi nkable excess of what bi nds hi m to the pieces
of the body-his wi fe. I n Haudclai ri an prosti tuti on, the intelli gent
si gn (dead currency) rclays i ntensi ty and displaces i t on itself in
Klossowskian adul tery, i ntensi ty remains i nstanti ated ' eloquentl y'
on a piantasm, that i s, an assembl age of fragments (the gaping of a
kni cker-hem, semi-extension of a fore-arm, the ni pple swell ing
fm all unlaced corset) subtracted from an impossibl e body whi ch
bears a proper name. And what Octave hopes to gain by provoki ng
hi s wife' s adul tery, i s amongst other thi ngs a sort of global vi ew
over thi s body (quite a di fferent passion from voyeuri sm) , that is to
make a single name correspond to a si ngle uni fed body supposed to
correspond to it. Octave i s not therefore so much a pi mp as a
politician, i f it is true that all true pol i ti cs is haunted by the phantasm
of the unitary body, but onl y i nsofar as this body si mply escapes the
gri p of the institutions of uniflcati on; beyond bourgeois soci ety,
through the cl ass-body.
Machiavelli wrote: ' You must know that there arc two ways of
contesting, the one by the l aw, the other by force; the frst i s the
method proper to men, the second t o beasts; but because the frst i s
The Tensor 81
frequently not suffcient, It IS necessary to have recourse to the
second. Therefore it is necessary for a prince to understand how to
avail himself of the beast and the man.' And he adds this: 'This has
heen fguratively taught to princes by ancient writers, who describe
how Achilles and many other princes of old ,ere given to the
Centaur Chiron to nurse, who brought them up in his discipline;
which means solely that, as they had for a teacher one who was half
beast and half man, so it is necessary for a prince to know how to
make use of both natures, and that one without the other is not
durable. '36 At the centre of the labyrinth which serves as a tailpiece
in Nietzsche et Ie Cercle vicieux, we will fnd, not a Minotaur, stupid
heast with his monotonous appetite, but a Centaur, a monster more
intelligent than the most intelligent of men, the image of the
marvellous dissimulation of signs into one another, supreme
wisdom which includes the stupidity of bestiality. Octave is equally
a centaur, adultery is a centaur, desiring not simply the country
which his hands, his lips and his penis arc legally authorized to cross,
but insofar as this country is 'real', it escapes him; and this is why
Octave redoubles his efforts to prolong Antoine's stay at his bestial
hind-quarters, because, as a receiver of force, the Prince of the law
knows how to metamorphose himself. And if Caesar must be
removed from his mother's womb by opening it up by force,
against nature, it is because Caesar, political master, is a monster
made of man and beast.
In prostitution, one goes from intensity to order; in adultery,
from order to intensity. But it is the same route, immobile
dissimulation, the voyage on the spot which crosses the extremes of
pulsional stupidity and notional clarity. This is the same indiscer
nibility of signs, which removes from us, we libidinal economists,
all appetite for vulgar romanticism and for equally tedious formal
ism, for a politics of spontaneous passions, and just as much for a
politics of understanding. We work at a refnement of dissimula
tion, structure is stupid and pathos sterile.
We must equip ourselves in particular with ecormic signs, to
which we have of course already been led by adultery - but
especially by prostitution, which could not fail to do so - signs of
this same coeffcient of dissimulation that we fnd in other spheres,
and of which they are nevertheless also events themselves. We must
grasp that currency (more generally every object in the system of
capital, since they are commodities and therefore currency), actual
K2 Libidirla! Erarwmy
or potential , is not merel y a convertible val ue i n a uni versal process
of production, but indiscernibly (and not opposi ti onal l y, di al ec
tically) a charge of libi di nal i ntensi t y. We must grasp the fact that
the system of capi tal is not the site of the occul tati on of an alleged
lIse-value which woul d be ' anterior' to i t - thi s i s the romanti ci sm of
al i enation, Chri sti ani ty - but pri maril y that i t i s in a sense more than
capital, more ancient. 1110re extended; and then that these so-called
abstract signs, susceptible to provi si onal measurement and calcula
tion, arc in themselves libi di nal . Economi c theory or even structural
anthropol ogy concei ves these signs excl usi vel y as terms in pl ay i n a
systcl lI of communi cati on whi ch regul ates thei r circulation, the
ld for them i tsel f produced by the partners of the exchange, their
lxchange-vallles and usc-values. I f we also approach them as proper
nmes now, as signs of i ntensi ty, as libi di nal val ues ( whi ch are
neither useful nor exchangeable) , as pul sations of desi re, as
mOl l 1ents of Eros and death - then, then . . .
Prostitution exchanges the phantasm ( whi ch is the client) agai nst
the si gns of the economi c system ( currency) ; but i t al so i ntroduces
the intelligent sign, communicable currency, i nto the si ngul ar and
vain ' monstrosi ty' of the phantas m, and in thi s way it dedi cates the
'adulterous coherence' of the thi nkable to the unthinkabl e. Price i s
combined and mi xed in wi th the exorbitant; that which has no
comparison, is pai d for, and i s therefore eval uated. Thi s confusi on,
more monstrous than the phantasm by i tsel f could be, is at once
i mpossible and i nevitabl e. We have understood why 'impossible' ;
but i nevi table because the si ngul ari ty forces itsel f to be communi
cated, bccuse cxtrenC pathos extends its eBlpiiL Lu the skin of
l anguage, because the most purple sexual arousal, al most blindi ng,
al so offers words, not necessari l y obscene, but al ways intelligent
signs invested and relinquished, because the arse being buggered is
al so a face which talks to us. Confusi on is i nevitable si mply because
l anguage i s not a separate sphere, because it belongs, in rags, to the
same band as these grey-gold loins which start to move under your
hands, and as these buttocks, rocking your scrotum and easing your
purse. The communication of t he cry is i ts affrmation, the
extension of the gyratory madness int o the domain of meaning and
order, Logos, which the West, and the philosopher especially, has
al ways wanted to keep shel tered from the monstrosity of l overs and
impious politicians.
The Tensor 83
In Sade the group of relations surrounding the value of the monetary
sign and its intensity are quite different from those one fnds in
prostitution. From the very beginning the client's body is the same
as the procurer's, Antoine and Octave together are as one (and
perhaps thereby share Sade's republicanism). The Society of the
Friends of Crime is not the society of procurers. The Milieu
embodies the duplicity of signs: adultery of money with jouissance,
fraud of jouissance when it is converted into currency. The sign of
these exchanges becomes the accomplice of untransmittable phan
tasms, the consumption of the pulsional singularity is bought at the
price of universally estimable sums in the form of money. Like
Hegel's Mitte,37 the Mi l ieu assures the institution's permeability by
desire; in this little different to the Police. 'Perverse' pulsions are
channelled by it towards the social body, the body of exchanges,
towards the circuit of the communication of exchanges and goods.
Milieu of duplicity and dissimulation par excellence, even if it has no
need to hide itself, just like the Police, since it too is concerned with
the detection and regulation of allegedly socially perverse partial
drives. We would dearly love to write the parole of the pol iceman, the
dissimulated-dissimulating speech par excellence, not because its real
aim is other than its declared aim, which is not its own, but by virtue
of its interest for the passions of the interrogated: the comprehensive
desire of the commissioner, always more comprehensive, more
embracing, moulding itself into, connecting onto the most intense
regions of the interrogated's desire, his most unknown desires (for
example, passivity, submitting to beatings), thus inscribing itself in
an arousing, erotic, perverse, infantile relation - to the end,
however, of cOllcentratir all these partial drives in the circle of trade
and in the total body, one of the producers of which is the
policeman. 'Making someone talk' here being nothing other than the
reestablishment of jouissa1ce in the place assigned it by order.
The pimp is an element of the same fgure, working more on the
side of the passions than on the side of interest, thus complementing
the preceding case. His function still remains to refne the libido
from the fragments of the negotiable body of prostitutes, to
heighten its quality by a continual exercise of relinquishment
rendering them available at every moment to the strongest energetic
passages. This avail abi l ity at every moment is what produces vertigo in
Lihidillal E{[JIlOIllY
great prostitution : it i s, l i ke the creations of the pi mp on the
woman's body, lt once the mark of her s(nifi(tiO/, as a communica
ble and negotiabl e si gn, the remarkabl e madness of her di sap
pearance as a person and of her abol i ti on in the anonymi ty of
i mpul sions. Wi thin the power rcl ation, such avai l abi l i ty i s cal l ed
sl avery or at least Kllccht sc/I!t; but it i s at the same ti me wi thin the
order OfjlFCl'S, fHCe and anonymi t y surpassi ng every domi nati on.
Wi thout there bei ng anv di al ectic bet ween the t wo posi ti ons, since
there is no i nterval: for exampl e the same arrogall((, of Ja[ques Ie
Jatalis/c counts both as an out burst agai nst the posi ti on of the master
and therefore In attempt t o reverse it on the one hand, and on the
other as the anonymous production of a l i bi di nal ' knowl edge'
IScll'oirl passi ng beyond every hierarchy; this arrogance bei ng that of
the ill fexi ble parti al pul si ol l , and in this sel l se, Il ever aggressi ve,
never receptive to social reasons tor struggle. In the story of FE. or
(), lrythi ng marks the verti go of the pi mp in a si mi l ar manner, the
11aster of bodies reduced to regi stered i ni ti al s, a regi on of routes for
nameless i ntell sities. The woman's i ni ti al and the pri soner's registra
ti on ll umber resul t from a supplemell tary l abour on the proper
name, by which it is al most effaced, as every corporeal i ty cl osed up
l1J itsel f, and as every subjective reserve, must be; but al so
mai ntained i n its ctcement, si nce i t i s by the anonymi ty l odged i n
the lJame that the aberrati on makes i tsel f noti ceable.
There i s none of this in the Soci ety of the Friends of Cri me,
however. A society cut off fom the soci al body, neither catching
the perverse passions nor concentrating them i n i t. Compared to the
pi mp and the cop, the cri mi nal i s a very rich man, 25,000 annual
income, 10,O(( francs in expellSes per vi cti m fOf the furthering of
j"lIiSSII1CI. And hi s functi on is not at all the concentration of the
parti al pul si ons: these, expended i n profusi on on the bodi es of
subjects, wi l l never be inscribed on the soci al body, as money,
thanks to the cri mi nal's i nterventi on. Conversel y, thi s l eads i ts
revenues away from the ci rcul ati on of goods and devotes them to
pure voluptuous consumpti on. I f there i s venal ity ofjouissance, i t is
certainly not through poverty, but thanks to the greatest luxury and
i n order to i ncfease that l uxury. ' The phantasm's equi valent (the sum
pai d)', writes Kl ossowski , 1H ' represents not onl y the emotion in
i t sel f, but al so the excl usi on of thousands of human l i ves. Val ue is
even augmented by this scandal , from the gregari ous poi nt of
vi ew. ' And he establ i shes cri minal equati ons, whi ch cannot be those
The TCIsor 85
of the procurer, in the following way: 'Exclusive voluptuo usness =
jamine = annihilation = the supreme value oj the phantasm . . . A
phantasm = an entire population. '39
It will be said that this is still to conceive of Sade in a nihilist
fashion, subordinating the libidinal force (uissalce) of the arrange
ments of the Chateau de la Font-Noire to the fact that they cost the
price of the lives of thousands of mouths to feed. Is it not enough
that the victims bought would be destroyed inside the chateau in
order that we may begin to understand the deadly inanity of the
libido, without any need, above the market, to calculate what it costs
for those outside? But the function of this infamy is not
'supplementary' .
It must be related to the peculiar status of the criminal; he is at the
same time both pimp and client, or rather, neither one nor the other.
The pimp brings the partial pulsion of the client back into the bosom
of the ghost-body of society, under the form of the monetary
equivalent; the client, in consuming his pulsional energy in the
production of his phantasms with the help of the prostitute,
produces a l i bidinal cqui valmt oj wrrency. But it is essential that the
criminal leave the system of equivalence between the pulsion and the
money; if money remains present in its libidinal 'accountancy', it is
no longer as the substitute or the simulacrum, it comes under the
heading of a region oj the body (which can no longer be, then, the
alleged social body, but necessarily the great libidinal skin) which
like any other can and must be grasped by the libido and be
submitted to its consummatory irradiation. Currency, language
itself become the object of the libertines' manoeuvres in the same
way as is the body. We know that fromJouree to Journee Duclos
'tells the story' of her monstrous life, which is simply the diachronic
development of the combinations of infamies; this criminal's
'narrative' is to language as the money spent on crime perpetrated by
the four master libertines is to political economy: not the substitute
in words for 'real' arrangements - we know that they practise this in
abundance - but reality extended well beyond the supposedly
'practical' (unduly endowed by a nihilist tradition with the exclusive
privilege to determine reality) right into those regions occupied,
according to this same tradition, by substitutes for things and
persons, i.e. the regions of money and language. The criminal
perpetrates, on the skin oj currency as on that of beings and words, the
SalTe plan of intensification to excess, the execution of which can
Li hidinal honolY
onl y be fol l owed by the cal ci nati on of the exci ted surfaces, and this
is why signs of exchange here, as opposed to what happens i n
prosti tuti on, ar e not onl y taken out of the ci rcui t of communi ca
tion, but devoted to destructi on; at this poi nt olle wonders i f the
Society of the Friends of Cri me is economi cal l y vi abl e. In any case,
it i s not capi tal i sti c, what i t accumul ates i s a weal th of rui ns.
Neverthel ess, Kl ossowski understands this rui nous usc of mone
tary signs in a very di frent way, 111 0re 'progressi vel y' : i t
consti tutes , he says, a protest agai nst the prosti tuti ve function of
cash i n society. I t i s preci sel y when the pi mp establ i shes a rel ation
between perversion and the soci al body, between the tensor si gn and
the i ntel l i gent si gn, and when he thus proves to be the only real l y
i nsti tuti ve connection of the negoti ati ng body i tseIt that the
cri mi nal i s used as a disconnection: the wi thdrawal of hi s fortune and
its squanderi ng to the ends of un transmi ttabl e pl easure arc provoca
ti ons destined to give rise to the al terati ve, before which dissimlJ la
tioll or dupl i city of si gns necessari l y i nvests a pol i tics of the l i bi do:
ei ther recogni ze that ' the repudi ati on of compl ete mons trosi ty by
instill/lions i s rCII(scd ill to de facto prostitut ion, material and morai ' , 4( )
admi tting therefore that the general ized system of commodities i s
the system of prosti tuti on under the cover of the trade of objects
and services , and nothing else besi des - or ' affrm that there i s onl y
one authentical l y uni versal communi cati on: t he exchange ofbodics by
the secret language ofbodi l y signs ' , 4 1 of whi ch Sade' s woman cri mi nal
provi des tbe principle and i l l ustrates one effect, the effect of
i nsurrection or perpetual shaking of the ci rcl e of exchanges by the
passions , to speak i n the manner of Blanchot . 42
I t is from posi ng the l i hi i nal political problem under this
alternative: either the communication of beings through the
exchange of their bodi es, called ' perversi on' , or prostitution under
the sign of dead currency, whi ch i s capital , i n any case mercantili sm,
t hat Klossowski forges hi s i mpossi bl e fction of a l i ving currency.
' One should i magi ne for an i nstant ' , he writes,
an apparentl y i mpossible regressi on: that i s an i ndustrial phase
where the producers have the means to demand, in the name of
payment , objects of sensati on on the part of consumers. These
objects are li vi ng beings . Accordi ng t o this exampl e of barter,
producers and consumers thereby constitute collections of ' per
sons' allegedly destined for pleasure, emotion, sensation. How
can the human ' person' fulfl the function of currency? How
The Tensor 87
could the producers, instead of being paid by women, ever come
to be paid ' in women' ? How would the entrepreneurs , the
industrialists, pay their engineers, their workers? ' I n women. '
Who will keep this living currency alive? Other women. Which
presupposes the reverse: women pursuing a career will be paid ' in
boys' . Who will keep alive, that is to say, who will sustain this
virile currency? Those who have feminine currency at their
disposal . What we are saying here in fact exists . For, without
literally returning to barter, all of modern industry rests on an
exchange mediated by the sign of inert currency, neutralizing the
nature of the obj ects exchanged; rests, that is, on a simulacrum of
exchange - a simulacrum which lies in the form of manpower
resources, thus a living currency, not affrmed as such, already
extant. 43
Before we marvel at this phantasy, let' s measure the exact range its
author attributes to it:
Li ving currency, the industrial slave at once stands for a si gn
guaranteeing wealth and this wealth itself As a sign, i t stands for
all kinds of other material riches; as wealth, it meanwhile excludes
every other demand that i s not the demand of which it is the
satisfaction. But satisfaction, strictly speaking, i s equally
excluded by its quality as a sign. This is how living currency
essentially differs from the condition of the industrial slave
(personalities, stars, publicity puppets, hostesses, etc. ) . The
industrial slave could not l ay claim to the category of the sign,
since she differentiates between what she is prepared to receive as
inert currency, and what she is worth in her own eyes . 44
The creature become living currency occupies a quite different
position from that held by the woman that Klossowski calls the
' industrial slave' . This latter ofrs , on the whole, nothing really
new if one compares it with the status of the labour-force
commodity as it is waged in the production industries in the large
sense. The puppet whose bodily image accompanies the offer of
commodities, tights, refrigerators, choc-ices, is simply one compo
nent element of the commodity constituting the publicity-obj ect
(poster, ' blurb' , commercial) . The same goes for the air-hostess ,
etc. , all things being equal . Of course, the interest which this
economic power shows in this body and this face appears to be
indissociable from a consideration of their libidinal force [uis
sance] . But de facto, this last fact is basically ignored; the images
Libidinal Economy
offered to the potenti al consumer do not have as thei r functi on the
st i mulation of his phantas mat i c forces [uissances ] , but the sti mul a
ti on of his propensi ty to buy the choc-ice or the refrigerator; they do
not cl ai m to make hi m spend hi s l ibido, but hi s money. I t i s not a
question of i ntensi ve force [ll issan(e] here, it is onl y a matter of
psycho-economi c power: but the libido i s not a psycho-economi c
' moti vation' . The i ndustri al sl ave therefore, by her position as a
meta-commodi ty, is subj ect to the libi di nal neutral i zati on whi ch i s
standard practi ce i n the consti tuti on of al l obj ects i n pl ay i n i ndustrial
production and exchange. The consummati on it suggests i s not
consumpti on. This remai ns ignored by the fnancial system whi ch
employs the woman for the purposes of publ i ci ty; the price that may
be accorded to the i ntense jOl l issancc of her body il l i ts ul lexchange
a bl e singularity is not real i zed i n the fnanci al system, i t remai ns
' exorbitant ' , it has to be sai d, ' valueles s ' . The i ndustrial sl ave i s
therefore commi tted to the most cl assi cal spl i t between the mer
chant' s possessi ons and the l over' s concerns .
I n a woman-living currency, i t woul d be, by contrast, the
emoti onal force [ pll issan(e] of her body that would di rectly deter
mi ne her libidinal pri(C; Kl ossowski says: ' i mmedi atel y' (but we will
sec that this i mmediacy i s i mpossible) . I n thi s way she will be
' wealth' : for all that she ' excl udes every other demand' , and cannot
count as the substitute for something else: extinguish the transfer
and the destruction of the rest fol l ows . Here Kl ossowski suggests
an analogy wi th gol d, i n which he sees a pol i tical-economi c
metaphor of libi di nal price: fr l i ke this l atter, gol d is usel ess, and i t
i s precisely because of this t hat i t i s precious, being opposed to al l
lIls trumentality; i t s uselessness may recal l t he i nanity of t he passi o
nal material in the sphere of usc. Thi s usel ess referent nevertheless
s erves as a standard for t he value of currencies, accordi ng to
Kl ossowski, and does this in the most arbitrary way: i t i s according
t o the same unpredi ctable conjunction that the libidinal price of the
currency-body ( , concrete currency' ) will determine the negotiable
value of commodi ties, from ' price' t o ' val ue' the consequence
remaining undecidable and the i ncommensurabili ty impenetrabl e.
We here discover t he t wo traits which reuni te and confound the
tensor si gn and the intell i gent sign i n one and the same ' t hing' :
indissociability and non-deductibili t y. The woman-currency would
be dissimulati on itself; she is not only the point of intersection of
more or l ess divergent si gni fying chai ns, a degree of pol ysemi c
The Tensor 89
density and overdetermination, she is in excess of the infnity of the
deathly tension which the libertine tracks like a beast over the plains
and valleys of her body. Between its value-function and its tensorial
force [uissance] , the currency of the body offers the duplicitous
relation, already encountered, of incompossibility and indis
sociability. It is because the order of intensities is not translatable or
convertible into that of values, that currency, be it the singular body
prepared to provide the material for 'perverse' phantasms, cannot
but remain abstract or dead, and that Klossowski must indeed,
contradicting his whole proj ect in these fw words, add to the
recognition of its libidinal singularity ('it excludes every other
demand if it is not the demand of which it is the satisfaction ') the
admission of its neutralization in the intelligible sign: ' Strictly
speaking, satisfaction is equally excluded by its quality as a sign. '
The question of jouissance is, however, exposed by currency come
alive, according to a fully aporetic nature: a body of intensities, this
currency seems to lend itself to jouissance; but as cash devoted to
payment, it cannot but defer it, just as, since it is excluded, the
prostitute's skin can become excited under the caress of a client.
How does the Klossowskian system differ fom prostitution? In
that the use of the woman is not to be bought by money, since this
use is on the contrary authorized by a certain claim of which the
'client' is the benefciary, rather than the woman's 'master'. The
prostitute's body is entirely maintained within the network of venal
values, even if it happens that the jouissance that it obtains from the
client fraudulently 'escapes' her in order to be consumed as intensity;
but the body of living money does not rier to dead money, and in
this sense, it is not a commodity, but rather money, since, if not its
acquisition, then at least its enj oyment Uouissance] earns the acquittal
of debts and the extinction of claims.
Is there now a split between the organization imagined by
Klossowski and the houses Sade dedicates to the debauchery of men
and women in the pamphlet 'Fran<ais, encore un effort . . . '? The
split lies in an important point, republicanism. In Sade's houses,
which are public property, every citizen, whatever their sex, has the
power to convene there, to enjoy, however they please, every
citizen, male or female. The 'motive' of the convocation is not, for
Sade, in any way economic, and thejouissance gained from the object
which Klossowski called phantasmatic never comes to be the
extinction of a debt. The sole debt Sade recognized and counted in
l( ) Li hidi nal Economy
hi s houses i s a debt of jouissance, whi ch i s pol i ti cal , and by which
every citizen i s potential ly and conti nuall y burdened wi th regard to
al l other citizens. This i ndependence, forceful l y maintained by the
marqui s , of the libidinal wi th regard to the economi c, i s the spl i t
wi thi n Klossowski ' s phantasy: the Sadean theme i s a pol i ti cal theme;
the production and exchange of commodi ti es pl ays no part in thi s .
The houses of debauchery are ci vi c i nsti tuti ons , and as sll ch have as
an indi rect but essential functi on, concentrating the libido on the
ci rcle of the political body. Here arc two versi ons: ' If . . . one
passion has no more need of the whole range of the l iberty of
another one, none without doubt i s as despoti c . . . every ti me that
you deny a man the secret means of the expressi on of hi s heart, he
wi l l throw hi msel f i nto venting i t on the obj ects around him, he will
trouble the government. If you wi sh to avoid thi s danger, allow a
free devel opment to his tyranni cal desires which, in spi te of hi m,
ceaselessl y torment hi m . . . ' 45 Thus one gi ves vent to the perversion
wi thin peripheral i nsti tuti ons , i n this, utterl y true to the Greek
mode! . 46
But Sade also says exactl y the opposi te: that a republican
government always menaced by the despots surrounding i t must
have as i ts sole moral i ty i ts mai ntenance by any means , that i t i s ruled
out that the means are all moral, that on the contrary i t must be
immoral men who by thei r movement of perpetual insurrection keep
the republ ican government on the al ert. Thus the houses of which he
spoke, far from havi ng the functi on of the appeasement of the
excitations provoked by the pul si ons i n the citizens, repl eni sh,
rather, what sustains them. Functi onal dupli ci ty of the sites of
i uxury as regards the pol i ti cal sphere i tself, at once the charge and
di scharge of energi es: cri mi nalit y, thi s perpetual mobi l i ty of those
which Pl ato, in The Republ ic, named hornets, and whi ch he wanted to
eli minate, provides the government wi th a twofold servi ce, i n the
danger presented to i t from the excesses of i ts i nsati abi l i ty, by
requiring the i nsti tuti on of criminal spaces which arc di scharge
poi nts for them and for it. Here Sade revives the great
Machiavellian tradition of the conni vance of the politician and the
beast, the traditi on of Chiron the Centaur, i nstructor to Princes,
duplicitous pol i ti ci an par excellence.
In Klossowski , who i s a modern man, there is neither city nor
government, the republ ic no l onger exi st s, the onl y body wi t h a
totalizing pretension is the body of capital, i t i s an open secret that
The Tensor 91
today' s politicians arc only the executors of the impulsional
imperatives of capital, and that they have no need to receive the great
excess of stupidity or bestiality fom a Chiron as the endowment of
political genius ; they are rich enough if they are endorsed by a civil
service college. It is in economics that the post-Marxist Kl ossowski
seeks the conspiracy of the pulsions on the ' social body' . But he is
not content to protest as Marx does against the indirect extension of
prostitution i nto all activities through the intervention of com
modities. He also draws out the implication suggested by this fact,
he sees in capitalism the return, but unaffirmed and unrecognized as
such, of what it rej ects, that is, lihidinal intensity, in the very heart
of the most apparently neutralized exchanges. (An analysis which,
at frst sight, does not appear to be unrelated to that of Baudrillard,
for whom commodity fetishism, denounced and largely ignored by
Marx himself is the transcription, in the order of political
economy, oftheJoreclosure underlying this order, at the same time as
it institutes it . ) Klossowski consequently says : there is little to be done
( , what we are speaking of in fact exists ' ) in order that what today
passes into the oblivion issuing from the production and exchange
of goods, violates, under the screen of dead money, the exchange
and consumption of phantasms - in order that this be fully
emphasized, and that this production and exchange immediately
become the circulation of jouissances: the imaginary li ving currency
has no other function than to claim to reestablish intensity on the
circle of trade itself and thus to stop treating desire as banned from
it, and to help onesel f to the body of capital as a convenient
expedient to attain the unspeakable aims of the species ( ' t o be paid in
women' ) . But in the same way as the Kl ossowskian idea of intensity
is not afflrmative (at least in La Monnaie vivante, it is not the same in
Le Cercle vicieux), in the same way as it persists (this can be clearly
seen in what he nevertheless j udges to be an important corrective in
this regard, in ' Le Philosophe scelerat' ) in remaining within the
nihilist tradition of transgression (of propagation) , of perversion
(of the medium) , of turning-away (of energies) , and concurrentl y,
if not in the phantasm as substitute, then at l east in the simulacrum as
the reduplication of the phantasm - so the establishment of
jouissance in the midst of the circuit of trade can, in his eyes, only
take on the form of a currency, even if this is living: heavy then with
the millennial heritage of prostitution and substitution, that is to say
of the dualism which we, libidinal economists, will terminate.
Li bidinal /{(J rl oIllY
As soon as one admi ts the i nexchangeabi l i ty of phantasms, one
must accept deci si vel y the necessi ty of the conservation of pol itical
economy and capital . Si nce it results from this inexchangeability
that they are inevitabl y substituted by doubl es or simul acra, and
therefore that libidinal ' riches ' are mi srepresented in the economi c
si gns of thi s weal th whi ch they represent but which, al so, wi l l for
ever differ from them in terms of consul ll pti on. That currency i s
l i vi ng docs not suppress the fct that it is currency, on the contrary.
By cxtending t o t he erotic bodi es thcmsel ves, the new pol i tical
economy makes these too into si mul acra, appearances, and com
poses, with these fragments of assembl ed fesh, tabl eaux, al so sai d
to be ll il t3' , for which Kl ossowski has such afction, a kind of
ferrc5trial city which is onl y the duplicatum of another ci ty, al ways
out ll f reach. In this sense, La MOl I l aic l ' i llal l /C continues the
Augus tinian religion of The City (?f Cod, and the ' l i fe' which excites
this currency and these tabl eaux i s a kind of death, in conformi ty
wi th the tradition of the Fathers .
We must neverthel ess pay homage to this fction at the very
moment that we distance oursel ves from i t. For what is sought in the
phantasy of these ,\oldcll hodics i s al so total l y opposed to the lessons
of Augustine. The exchange of pul si onal zones in excessi ve
arrangements (exorbitant ' phantasms' ) can and must be understood,
i n the work of Kl oss ow ski himsel f- and thi s is explicitly the case i n
Le Cercle l'icieux - not as an exchange i n the sense of two contracting
parties each intending to swap two obj ects of equivalent ( marginal)
utility, but as a metamorphosis in which the invested regions (and
we have seen that, according to Sade, whom Kl oss owski fol l ows
here, this mi ght be l anguage or ellen money) exi st only to the extent
that they are crossed by energy, by the greatest or the most delicate
or the most gentle tension and pain, unpredictably and ceaselessl y.
This ' exchange' is the passage of intensities running from one
proper name t o another, from one initial to another, from one
reference number to another, without a return t o t he same and
therefore without capitalizati on, without which there can be no
instance, structure, great Zero of input/ output matrices, no Mem
ory, to register the energies expended here and amassed there.
Understood i n this way, it i s ' life' which is in fact currency in the
sense that there is nothing but simulacra, signs of course, but
without reference to another order, to a signifed; a political economy
assuredly, but one which, far from being the betrayal and travesty
The TCrlsor 93
of libidinal economy, is this libidinal economy; a political economy
without a betrayed or alienated 'origin', without a theory of value.
A currency therefore in the sense of Roman paganism and theatrical
theology admitting only tensor signs, only masks hiding no face,
only surfaces without a back stage, only prices without Fa/ues.
It is undoubtedly because he has not broken with the problematic
of al ienation, which is Augustinian just as much as it is Marxian, that
Klossowski hesitates in his evaluation of capitalism and therefore
over the exact range to give to a libidinal use of signs. He may indeed
insist on the strict analogy which reigns between the useful product
('instrumental') and the phantasm, between the consumption of the
product and the voluptuous emotion, between the 'industrial world'
and the perverse society -but it is just as much in order to declare that
it must be suspected: ' Strictly speaking there exists no economy of
voluptuousness which would benefit from industrial means'; and
even to superimpose an overtly 'perverse' relation onto this analogy:
'a purely analogical relation leads to nothing, if one does not start
from the point of view of objects and needs in order to detect the
struggle of affects against their inadequate jormulati on, materially
reconverted to the state oj a dC/nand jor goods which only corresponds to
them in a perverse way. '47 Now, is it not obvious that this perverse
relation proceeds from a return of the thought of alienation to the
heart of the erotic? Elsewhere, Klossowski says that the pulsions are
always in combat against themselves: it therefore has no need of
capitalism in order to be 'inadequately' formulated. It remains that
this inadequacy, wherever it comes from, exists only with regard to
a manner of thinking concerned with and determined by tmth.
Between the intelligent sign and the tensor sign, between the
currency and the pulsion, we say that the relation is not of
formulation, expression, or translation, of betrayal, but of coexis
tence and dissimulation. And because the problem of capital, and
that of currency, cannot be that of enjranchisilli the desire of its
grotesque masks, those of capital being neither better nor worse,
more or less 'authentic' than the others. It is of decisive importance
to recognize that over a period, new 'signs' appear, new statements
amongst the number of which Klossowski's are first - new
'practices', new 'works', which libidinally, just as much as econom
ically announce the ruin of the distinction between the sentiments
and business, between the affect and labour. Like those oj capital ,
these signs arc duplicitous, and there is no question of declaring lJ rbi
94 Lihidinal EWHory
et orhi that with their appearance semiotics and pol itical economics
are ruined, and desire emancipated fom the stocks of the system of
values. Their intensity is new, in the manner in which they are
inscribed into established regions, by the distances which they force
back and evoke. Their rclation to sign-val ues, to intelligent signs, is
wrapped in a new duplicity. Rather than greeting a dawn, we should
honour the new dissimulation ill them. Thefe, where there are onl y
surfaces, conspiracy and secrecy reign.
The Desi re Named Marx
Libidinal Marx
We must come to take Marx as if he were a writer, an author full of
affects , take his text as a madness and not as a theory, we must
succeed in pushing aside his theoretical barrier and stroking his beard
without contempt and without devotion, no longer the false
neutrality which Merleau-Ponty advised in the past for someone
who, he said, has now become a classic and must be treated no
differently than Hegel or Aristotle - no, stroke his beard as a
complex libidinal volume, reawakening his hidden desire and ours
along with it. There is no need to criticize Marx, and even if we do
criticize him, it must be understood that it is in no way a criti que: we
have already said and repeated that we laugh at critique, since it is to
maintain oneself in the feld of the criticized thing and in the
dogmatic, indeed paranoiac, relation of knowledge. Marx's desire
interests us , not for itself, but inasmuch as it informs the themes of
writings which metamorphose into themes of social and political
'practices'. Marx must he introduced, the big fat Marx, and also the
little Marx of the Epicurean and Lutheran studies, this entire
continent, into the atlas of lihidinal cartography - or rather the
reverse: to start crossing this strange country with our affections
and disaffections , letting our attachments and our deceptions
circulate, refning our analysis here, neglecting it there, because we
have neither the hope nor the intention of setting up a portrait of the
work, of giving an ' interpretation' of it. We do not interpret, we
read, and we effect by writings. We have, for a long time, having
read Marx, operated by means of practices (since this is the word
left us by the Greeks as a di sastrous heritage). We say this not to
render the libidinal use we make of the Old Man more j ustifable or
less shameful; rather to situate these ' practices ' in the sphere of what
rightly belongs to interpretation. A Marxist political practice is an
interpretation of a text, j ust as a social or Christian spiritual practice
Libdil / al /(0/ 1 0/ 1 1 Y
is the interpreta ti on of a t ext . So much so that practices are
thel l l selves text s, i nsofar as they are i nterpretati ons . And thi s is
preci sely what we desi re not to do here. We no longer want to
correct Marx, to reread hi m or t o read hi m i n t he sense t hat the li t t l e
Althusscri ans would like to ' read Capi ta/ ' : t o i nterpret i t accordi ng t o
' i t s truth' . We have no pl an t o be true, t o gi ve t he t rut h of Marx, we
vonder what therc is of t he li bido i n Marx, and ' i n Marx' means in
hi s text or i n hi s i nterpret at i ons , I l l ai nl y i n practices . We will LI ther
t reat hi m as a ' work of art ' . We wi l l t ake S01 1 l e i ncontestable detail,
considered mi nor, and which i n tct i t is i n regard t o t he mani tst
t hemes of t he work; qui t e cert ai n, however, t hat i t is not so fr t he
libidi nal geography of t he con ti ncnt .
We not e cven t hi s, libi di nal economi s t friends : we fel al most
obliged, as you ' vc j us t heard, t o makc s ome sort of a decl arat i on of
i ntenti ons, a li ttle solem) ] , vaguely epi ste1 1l ol ogi cal ( as l i t t l e as
possible, nevertheless , t ake note) , at t he shorcs of t hi s cont i ncnt . No
other cont i ncnt woul d cxt ract such decl arat i ons frol l l li S - al t hough
t hey rCl l l ai n somewhat st upi d and certai nly uscless . Wc could say
t hat i t i s t hrough s uspi ci on and i nt i mi dat i on, wared as we arc by a
mili tant past of, when l ayi ng a hand on Ma rx, even and i ndeed
especially ifit were to screw wi t h hi m, we arc closely wat ched by the
paranoi acs cal l i ng themsel ves Marxist pol i tici ans and i n general all
the Whites of the l eft. We would therefore prudently \ar: it is i n
this state of mi nd, thi s state of heart, thi s state of body t hat we
approach the Old Ma n.
But the libi di nal ' truth' of our preamble l i es elsewhere. I t already
st ates the essential whi ch i s thi s: the Ol d Man i s al so a young woman
t o us, a st range bIsexual assembl age. The dispositis \hi ch channel
their impulsions into theoreti cal di scourses , and will give ri se to
organisms of power, the very ones which will harden into the
German Part y, the 10l shevi k Part y, these dispositif arc of course
' compromise-format i ons ' , t hey arc so many at t empt s t o st abilize
the forces on the libidi nal font , medi ati ons - oh how ' al i enated' , as
he loved to say - i nterposed between t he fuxes of desire and t he
regions i nto whi ch they travel. Thi s happens not onl y i n certai n
themes, or at l east i n certai n ' mi nor' moti f, some of whi ch we wi l l
pi ck out, i t s posi ti on i s establ i shed frst of al l in somethi ng quite
astonishing: the perpetual postponement offni shi ng work on Capital,
a chapter becomi ng a book, a secti on a chapter, a paragraph a
section, by a process of cancerizat i on of theoreti cal di scourse, by a
Te Desire Named Marx 97
totally pulsional proliferation of a network of concepts hitherto
destined on the contrary to ' fnalize' , to ' define' and to justify a
proletarian pol i tics , hence by the racing of a discursive machinery
explicitly, however, laying claim to rationali ty (theoretical-practi
cal) . Is the non-fnito a characteristic of rational theory? We are able to
support this , in these post-relative days ; but for Marx (and therefore
for Engels the impatient! ) , it must rather have been a bizarre,
worrying fact.
We say that this postponement, which results in the ' Economy'
never being completed, 1 and in the calculations of Capital, Book 3
being fal se, 2 already demonstrates a whole dispositif, a libidinal
monster with the huge fat head of a man full of warrior' s thoughts
and petty quarrel s, and with the soft body of young amorous
Rhenane - a monster which never achieves the realization of i ts
uni ty, because of this very incapacity, and it is this 'fail ure' which i s
marked in the interminable theoretical suspense. What we have here
i s not exactly the centaur, the master of politicians as Chiron was the
master of Achilles ; rather, it woul d be the hermaphrodite, another
monster in which femininity and masculinity are in dis cernibly
exchanged, thereby thwarting the reassurance of sexlal diference.
But it is exactly this which i s in question in the ' Economy' , and we
maintain, dear comrades , the following thesis : the li ttle gi rl Marx,
offended by the perversity of t he polymorphous body of capital,
requires a great love; the great prosecutor Karl Marx, assigned the
task of the prosecution of the perverts and the ' invention' of a
suitable lover (the proletariat), sets himself to study the fle of the
accused capitalist.
What happens when the person assigned to the prosecution i s as
fas cinated by the acclsed as he is s candalized by him? It comes about
that the prosecutor sets himself to finding a hundred thousand good
reasons to prolong the s tudy of the file, that the enquiry becomes
meticulous , always more meticulous, that the lawyer submerged in
the British Museum in the micros copic analysis of the aberrations of
capital i s no longer able to detach himself from it, that the organic
unity, that this s warmi ng of perverse fl uxes that i s supposed to have
to produce (dialectically) , never stops moving away, escaping him,
being put off, and that the submi ssion of petitions is kept waiting
interminably. What was happening then throughout the thousands
of manuscript pages? The unifcation of Marx' s body, which
requires that the polymorphous perversity of capital be put to death
Libidinal Eroll OIll Y
fl r the beneft of the ful fil ment of the desire for geni tal l ove, is not
possibl e. The prosecutor i s unabl e to deduce the birth of a new and
beautiful (ill )orgmzic body ( si mi l ar to that of precapi tali st forms)
whi ch woul d be chil d-soci al i s m, from the porognphy of capital
i s]]] . If there is a body of capi tal , this body is sterile, i t engendcrs
I lothi ng: i t exceeds the capacity of theoretical discoursc as
uni ti cation.
' I do not want to be resigned to sendi ng jus t anything' , Marx
wrote to Engel s who presses hi m (3 1 Jul y 1 S(5) , pri or to havi ng the
whole work in his sight. ' Whatever defect they may have, i t is to the
a dvantage of my wri ti ngs that they consti tute an arti sti c whol e, and
I can onl y achieve this resul t i n my own way and by never havi ng
them printed until I have them before ]]]e in their CIl lirely. ' Thcse
wri r l l l gs on their own, however, never consti tute this l,isihle artistic
whol whose ] ]]odel is an ( i n) organi c body, organi c i nsofar as it is a
compl ete and fecund total i t y, i norgani c i nsofar as it is not bi ol og
i cal , but theoretical here (the same uni tary model which will be
desired and ' recognized' in precapi tal i st forms or in soci al i sm, this
t i l l l L 011 the socio-economi c pl ane).
The young innocent Li ttl e Girl Marx says: you sec, I am in l ove
wi th l ove, thi s must stop, thi s i ndustri al and i ndustrious crap, this i s
what makes me anxious , I want the return to the ( i n) organi c body;
and it has been taken over by the great bearded schol ar so that he may
establ ish t he thcsis t hat i t cannol slop, and so that he may testify, as the
counsel to the poor ( amongst whi ch is the Li ttl e Girl Marx) , to hi s
revolutionary concl usions; s o that he may perform the obstetrics of
capital ; and so t hat he may gi vc, t o her, t hi s total body he requires, thi s
chi l d, at least this child of words which would be the anticipated
double (the younger child born frst) of the child of fesh: of the
proletariat, of social i sm. But al as , he does not give her this child. She
will never have this ' arti sti c whole' beforc her, these writings ' i n
t hcir entirety'. Shc wil l ha ve s ufferi ng growi ng before hcr a nd i n
her, because her prosecutor wi l l disco vcr i n the course of hi s
research, insofar as i t i s endless, a s trange jouissancc: the same
jouissance that resul ts from t he i nstantiation of the pul si ons and their
di scharge i n postponement. The jouissance of i nfnity. This ' perversity'
of knowledge is rightl y cal l ed ( scientifc) research, and intensi ty
there is not, as i t i s i n orgas m, ' normal' , the intensi ty of discharge
i ns tantiated in a genital couple, but i s the i ntensi ty of an inhibiti on,
of a putting into reserve, of a pos tponement and of an investment i n
The Desire Named Marx 99
means. So much so that the prosecutor charged with obtaining
proof of the pornographic ignominy of capital repeats , in his
enquiry and even in his preparation and pleading, this same ' Don' t
come yet' - so to speak - which is simply another modality of
jouissance, whi ch i s found in the libidinal dispositif of capital . While,
as concerns the content, i t i s always in search of the lovable body
which he-she desires , the form of this research already contains its
denial and its impossibility.
This is why the attention which this body is able to command, and
to which it must have the right, provokes the bad temper of the
paradoxical defender of the poor. When the refugees from the
Commune fed to London and the International was fully preoc
cupied with them, while in short s omething like the subversive
' reality' of this proletarian-socialist body, supposedly much sought
after, comes to explode in the eyes of the world (and, it s eems, i n the
eyes of the author of the ' Address to the Committee of the
International ' dated 30 May 1 871 ) , what docs Marx fnd to write, on
9 November of that same year, to Danielson, his Russian translator,
who is awaiting the corrections to the text of the frst chapter? ' It is,
without any doubt, quite useless to await a revision of the frst
chapter, for my time has for some months been so taken up (and on
this point there i s little hope of improvement in the near future) that
I am unable to pursue my theoretical labours any more. It i s certain
that one fne morning I will put an end to all this, but there are
circumstances where one is morally bound to busy oneself with
things much less attractive than study and theoretical research. ' Not
very attractive, says the equivocal prosecutor, your fne proletarian
body, again we catch a glimpse of the infamous prostitution of
capital . . .
But, you say, this suspension of theoretical labour on capital, this
is not for one second a pleasure in the sense of a s ecurity, an
irresponsibility, it i s on the contrary the result of a libidinal
transaction, i t is the price that the young amorous Girl-Marx' s desire
for the reconciled body i s made to pay by the fat-headed Accuser
Marx with the shattered social body: ah, you dream of the relation
of non-domination between men and things, and between men
themselves, and between men and women! All right then, show the
consistency of the dream, demonstrate that reality too, dreams this
dream. That is to say: you also pay, pay in word-products , in
articulations, in structured arguments , endlessly. Wasn' t this said, in
J( ) Libidinal Ecoll olll Y
su bstance, in the peripheries of the work, in 1 H44: the proletariat is
Christ, and his real s uffering is the price of his redemption, and this
is why it is not enough that a particular wrong is done him, a
shopkeeper' s wrong, a pathetic limitation of his profit-margin, for
example, no, his redemption requires a total suffering, therefore a
total wrong, as the proletariat wil l be for Marx, once and for all, and
as Marx will be once and for all for the proletariat required by the
desire named Marx: Christ the prolet3ri3t, Marx his witness
martyr? The(lfctiral discourse being his cross, his torture?
Certainly, we m3Y put it this W3Y, in terms of 3 rel igious
metaphor. But it mis ses the essential, bec3usc it presupposes exactly
what turs out to be in luestion in Marx' s desire, it presupposes this
body of rierell (f as a sacrifce, body of capital fo, the martyr of the
proletariat, body of the proletariat for Marx' s martyr, without
which sacrifce and martyr go up in smoke, and arc no more than
phantaslll s of guilt. In other words, the sacrifI cial metaphor is not
libidinally neutral, it is not economically correct, it is topically
' correct' , it requires a principle (be it im3ginary, which none the less
requires a ' s ymbolic' medi um) of unification and inscription in
comparison to which pain and pleasure, here those of Marx' s
res earch, may be counted, registered. And what if it was precisely
this referential instance which Marx' s inspection tured out to lack,
this body of Ratio, of the account? What if what would prolong the
research interminably were not, as ' psychoanal ytic' or ' Nietzschean'
crassness wouldn' t fail to say, Karl Marx' s 'masochist' des ire or ' bad
conscience' , but the vertigo of a terrible discovery (always hidden):
that there is no-one to keep the accounts of suffering and jouissance,
.e thal Llli, lUu, is the domination of money-capitaP
If we restrict ourselves to a ' critique' (which means, of course,
non-critique) of whatever guilt or ressentiment there is in the
assemblage of the desire named Marx and generally named militant, 3
we will de facto remain in the religious metaphor, we will replace the
religious metaphor with an irreligious metaphor, still religious then,
in which judgements will be discovered at work according to good
and evil in reference to a 'new' god, which will be desire: movement
will be good, investment evil; action as innovation and the force of
the event will be good, reaction reiterating identity, evil. And how
will we then describe the ' Marx' or ' militant' libidinal diyositij We
turn to the passion for expiation and ressentiment. Every reversal
(of the ' frst' into the ' last' , but just as much of the dominant into the
The Desire Named Marx 1 01
equal) which forms the fgure of the revolution implies, we say, the
intention of a price to (be) charged. If Marx authorized himself to
set himself up as the proletariat's advocate, and petition against their
exploiters, if he can declare to them: this is why it is you who will
pay the price, it is, we say again, on condition that he had marked
down the suffering, the expiation and the ressentiment on his own
body and that he himself suffers and pays. Is this not the law which
gives the right to the desire for revolution, in the sphere of ressentiment:
that the militant had formed his own body into a monstrous
composition, so that the woman-proletariat would obtain the most
durable man-prosecutor and the greatest total pain, that all revolu
tionary ressentiment will be played out between Little Girl Marx and
Old Man Marx 01 its body?
Far from emancipating ourselves through such a critique of what
we detest, religion, ressentiment, guilt, morality, we will only
invert its signs; Marx wants an (in)organic body, does his desire
enslave it to a genital model? We want a schizophrenic model and an
unstable body. Marx wants to charge? We want generalized
gratuity. Marx accuses? We exonerate. Marx-the-proletariat suffers
and redeems? We j oyfully love all that appears. Etc. A new
morality, a new religion, is in fact merely a very ancient ethics, itself
strongly 'reactive', since the party of movement and existence has
always existed at the core of religions, at least of those taking
authority from a revelation, to act as a counter-poison in belief and
in the systems of belief, every time that its adversary, the party of
order and structure, has ended up wearying the faithful and even the
priests. Do we want to be merely the saviours of a fallen world,
then, the hearts of a heartless world, prophets (cruel, very cruel, as
the programme goes) for a humanity without words? Do we hring
new values then? In denouncing militant res sentiment, we are doing
nothing other than valorizing a certain sort oflibidinal dispositif, in fact
the admirable viscosity of the fl uxes ceaselessly setting up and
wiping out on the great libidinal flm; we affrm its exclusive value:
but the exclusive value is called truth. Therefore we afrm: schizo
desire, there's truth! How then does the dispositi ofour affrmation
differ from that by which the ancient statements (love is the truth;
renunciation is the truth; knowledge is the truth; socialism is the
truth) were affrmed? Doesn't their reactive element lie in their
power ofexclusion? Are we too not going to exclude? How pitiful !
This, then, is not how the libidinal disposit!f named Marx should
be described, merely described; not as the effect of ressentiment. Our
12 Libidinal Economy
rul e should be never to describe anything as effect; we should
describe everything as capable of cIrcas . Now there is, in the
interminable postponcment of the prosecution' s rcvolutionary
sll lllmation in Marx, a certain effective force; theoretical discourse
ceases to be presentcd according to its closure even though this is
what it sccks. What Marx perceives as failure, sutring (and maybe
even lives through as ressentiment) is the mark on his work of a
situation which is precisely the same as that of capital, and which
gives rise to a strangc success as much as to an awful misery: the
work cannot fmn a body, j ust as capital cannot form a body. And this
absell ce of organic, ' artistic' unity gives rise to two divcrgent
movements always associated in a single vertigo: a movement of
Hight, of plunging into the bodiless, and thus of continual
invention, of expansive additions or affirmations of new picces
(statements, but elsewhere musics, techniques, ethics) to thc insane
patchwork - a movement of tl'lsiCJ1/ . And a movement of institutioll
of al l organisl, of an organization and of organs of totalization and
unification - a movement of reason. Both kinds of movement arc
there, efcts as force in the nonfnito of thc work j ust as in that of
capitalism. 4
Marx's inability to catch up with his book (a dela y which is equally
an ' advance' upon it, a form of temporal dislocation in any case),
rather than being considered as an effect of masochism or guilt,
should be compared with the way in which Sterne makes a theme of
this delay in Tristram Shandy. In each case, the following confgura
tion is involved: to fabricate a discourse, whcther narrative or
theoretical, implying a new, unprecedented organization of space
and time, the writer (narrator, theoretician) uses space and time.
With Sterne, this usc (or this usury) is inscribed in the narrative
itself, and devours it: the place and the duration occupied by the
'narrative act' little by little invade those which should be given over
to the narration of the story and render this latter impossible, or at
least transform it into the narrative of this invasion and this
impossibility. With Marx, the effect that the 'act of elaboration' has
on the space-time of theoretical discourse is not explicitly marked in
this latter, and the fnal impossibility of the domination of the
duration and location in a discourse (which is here theoretical and no
longer narrative, but which nevertheless refers to a supposed 'story'
taken as a reference) does not give rise to Sterne's desperate humour,
to a style. With Marx, the expression of this despair remains
The Desire Named Marx 1 03
repressed, caught and hidden between his activity of fabricating
apodictic fnal statements and the statements , not even assertive,
which he publishes in another text, those of confessions, letters ,
abandoned or withdrawn manuscripts, lecture notes, plans. But this
despair gives rise, in whatever way, to theoretical suspense, it opens
the voi d of: Wai t until I have fnished.
This void is that of the mediator alienating the subj ect (Marx,
Sterne) and the obj ect (the book) , to speak in Marx' s l anguage; it is
that of inhibition, which leads desire from its primary obj ect
towards the means of its realization; i t is that of capital, which loves
production rather than the product, and for which the product is
only the means of producing; i t i s that of the ' communi st' party,
which loves not the revolution, but the means by which they are able
to make it happen, which in their hands is only a pretext to the
machinery for capitalizing the desire for revolution. Therefore, this
void is that in which the mechanisms of power are constructed; but
it i s also the suple viscosity of capitalism as fragments of the body,
as connected-disconnected singularities, as amnesia, decentred and
anarchic, as harlequinade, as metamorphoses without inscripti on, as
the undoing of totalities and totalizations, as ephemeral groupings
of unforeseen affrmations .
There Is No Subversive Region
Let' s repeat it over and again, we are not going to do a critique of
Marx, we are not , that i s to say, going t o produce the theory of his
theory: which is just to remain within the theoretical. No, one must
show what intensities are lodged in theoretical signs, what affects
within serious discourse; we must steal his affects from him. Its
force i s not at all in the power of its discourse, not even in inverse
proportion to it, this would still be a little too dialectical an
arrangement; no, its force erupts here and there, independently of
the consistency of the discourse, sometimes i n a forgotten detail ,
sometimes in the very midst of a solid conceptual mechani sm, well
articulated and rooted - but of course always in intelligent signs .
What would a critique of Marx be (apart from the fact that there are
already a hundred thousand such critiques) ? We must inevitably say
of him: oh he remained alienated, oh he brought out the s ymbolic
system (this i s Baudrillard) , oh he is still religious (this would rather
be us) , oh he remained an economist (this was Castoriadis) . Quite
l. i hidill al i(() 1 I 0Ill
obvi ous l y he r' l I l ll il / ('d t hi s, j( l /IO t hat , i s sfi l l s uch and such a t hi ng -
sOl l l ethi ng whi ch the cri ti c is s upposed to /1 hl l lger be, to have
sl Iperseded. Wel l , we ha ve superseded not hi ng and we have nothi ng
to supersede, we do not cl i mb onto Mar x' s back here, ' armed wi th
doubl e spectacl es, somc Li l l i put i an stal l ds on the extremi ty of the
gi ;l l l t' s posteri or l i t was Ari stotl e actu al l y I , annoul l ces amazedl y to
t hl' worl d what al l astoundi ngl y I l ew vi ew i s offered from hi s
J ! / I I / cl l l l l "isl I s, and ri di cul ous l y el l deavours to demonst rate t hat t he
Archi medi al l poi l l t . . . on whi ch t he worl d hi nges, can be f) tl l 1 d,
not i n t he pul sat i ng heart but i n t he fi rm and sol i d area on whi ch he
st ands' - so t he Li ttl e Ci r l Ma r x, Al i ce, wrote i n t he annotati ons t o
her doctoral thesi s S
Of course he remai l l lll rel igi ol l s. But what do we want-desi re? A
truc athei sm' Certai nl y not ! A beyond uf both rel i gi on and at hei s m,
sOl l l cthi ng l i ke Romal l parody, and consequent l y, we woul d not a t
al l be content t o ha ve ' demol l s t rated' t hat Ma r x' s pol i ti cs a nd
pol i ti cal cconomi cs arc ful l of rel i gi osi t y, rcconci l i ati on and hope
a l though we arc constrai ned to do s o and i t i s i mpossi bl e to avoi d thi s
sort uf knowl edgeabl c di scourse. We arc. however, a ware that t hi s
i s set out i n such a way t hat t here i s no trace of t he emot i ol l s whi ch
i nduce i t , and t hat , i n consequence, i ts very posi t i on i s reassuri ng,
perhaps al l owi ng onl y a certai n angui sh, apparent l y the onl y nobl e
affect, to fl ter through, but not l ove, not anger, not some
di sconcerti ng surpri se. I t woul d make us happy to be abl e to
retranscri be, i nto a l ibi di nal di scourse, those i ntensi ti es which haunt
Marx' s thought and which, in general , arc di ssi mul ated i n t he brass
tacks solemni ty of the discourses of economy and pol i ti cs. We will
show, rhercrore, how in iviarx' s own terms, pol iti cal economy is a
l i bidinal economy.
We arc very close and very far then from what Baudrillard i s
doing, 6 and t hi s i s an excellent opportuni ty for us to t ry to explai n
why, since there is a lIovemerlt i n Baudrillard with whi ch we feel
sYllchronized and co-pol ari zed. We are very cl ose, read him and see;
but also very di stant, s ince what governs our brother' s approach
remains burdened i n our eyes with hypothesi s, theory and cri tique.
This i s not for want of denouncing cri ti que as i mperi al i sm and
theory as raci s m, in formul as we joyful l y endorse. But as holy and
beauti ful as it is, his anger ai ms ul t i matel y at the true once agai n, i t
reproaches political economy, even and especially i f thi s was
Marxi st (because we were hopi ng for precisely the opposite from
The Desire Nalll ed Jarx 1 05
it), of remaining within the sphere of production, of value, of
l abour, and thus of forgettin something, repressing or rather
foreclosing, in a sort of perversion, which Baudrillard previousl y
qualifi ed as fetishist, a relation between persons which woul d not be
subordinated to the consideration of the product, but woul d be
entirely governed by symbolic exchange, entirely centred on the
exhaustiol1 of the libidinal resources of love and death in a give-ald
take heedless of the conservation of goods, heedless of power,
bound up with rekindling force rll issance] at all cost s. Poli tical
economy, therefore, woul d be something which begins somewhere
in the history of humanity, in any case with a certain sort of social
dispositij; far then from being the universal truth of every society,
presenting itself veiled, in embryo, in archaic societies from which
it woul d be absent; it woul d be the retroactive projection of the
capitalist assem bl age onto s ymbolic exchanges that woul d ignore all
interest in order to count onl y as passion, and all equivalence in order
to exhibit nothi ng but ambivalence.
One shoul d sweep aside the little ploys of the ' determinant' and
the ' dominant'7 with the back of one' s hand, the profoundly
logocentric view according to which, of course, the Greeks were
ignorant ofl abour, but woul d fnal l y work without knowing it, and
woul d, indeed, have to end up l earning it although no longer under
the name of the Greeks, but that of the Romans and the English - we
say this i s al l very wel l , and we wil l march on in the same direction,
certain that we must everywhere destroy the hastions of al l eged
economic rationality, as we must those of semiology. But, j ust as
for this l atter, we do not want to fal l into tbe trap set by this
rationality at the same moment that it is vanquished. This trap
consists quite si mpl y in resp(mding to the demand of the flanquished
theory, and this demand is: put sometbing in my pl ace. The
important tbing is this pl ace, however, not the contents of the
theory. I t is the place of theory that must be vanquished. And this
can come about only through displacement and fight . I t matters
little if we say: there is no his tory, if it is replaced with the linear
history of stages of humanity' s development, such as historical
materialis m imagines it, repl aced by a history or even a simultaneity
of dis continuous forms registering social formations in their
internal and external differences . I t makes l i ttl e difference to say:
there is no universal political economy, if we add: the truth of the
social relation is the ambivalence of symbolic exchange, this alone
16 Li hidi nal nco/will Y
gi ves ri ghts to the eroti c and l ethal for ce of desi re. Al l the more so
because we arc subtle enough, and thi s was formerl y laudri l l ard' s
very beautiful i nt roducti on t o the article on feti shi s m, to recognize
that desire Imdcrl ics capitalism too, so that i n some sense the former
gi ves the ri ght to the l atter, t hat i t i s not a l i bi di nal nothi ng, i ncl udi ng
in i t s i nvestment a proper effect of ni hi l ati on (that of ambi val ence) .
No sooner is thi s accord of capi tal wi th the order of desi re accepted,
no sooner is the ' perversion' marki ng it speci fed, than we fi nd
ourselves once more wi thi n theory and eval uati on: ' And fol l owi ng
the same revol uti onary movement as Marx di d, we mlst move t o a
radi cal l y di fferent l evel t hat , beyond i ts critique, permi ts the
defini tive resol ution of pol i ti cal econ0111 y. Thi s level i s that of
symbol i c exchange and i ts theory. `
Are you sayi ng that pol i ti cal economy rests on the i gnorance of
desi re No, but on the forecl osure of castrati on, answers
Baudril l a rd. l3ut what i s t hi s castrati on, what i s forecl osure? I s desi re
rked by castrati on, and i s i t organi zed j ust as Saussure' s rl l:sati ve
ul1 lkrlies la lO,1l t' ? Strange game of hi de-and-seck wi th oursel ves :
thi s castrati on, thi s negati ve, whi ch here we name the great Zero, far
from seeing in it the order of desi re, whi ch is the movement of
energy, i t i s for us the order of capi tal in the broadest sense, that of
the theol ogy whi ch capi tal i zes afct s on the i nstance of t he Other,
one fgure of desi re. And i t i s of our l i bi dinal economy that
Baudril lard woul d be correct to say that i t forecl oses castration, and
therefore desire. Do we maintain the opposi te? Hardl y. Let us take a
precise case. When Baudri l l ard says: ' There is neither a mode of
productiorl 1I 0r production i n pri mi ti ve societies . There is no dialectic ald
no unconscious in pnmitive soci eti es, we say: there are no primitive
societies .
First of all, methodologi cally ( I ' m afrai d so . . . ) , this society of
the gi ft and counter-gift pl ays, i n Baudrillard' s thought, t he role of
a reference (l ost, of course) , of an alibi (whi ch cannot be found) , i n
his critique of capital. Baudri l l ard does not mean to speak of nature
and naturality. lO How i s i t that he docs not see that the whole
problematic of the gi f, of symbol i c exchange, such as he receives it
from Mauss, with or without the addi ti ons and diversions of
Bataille, Cailloi s, Lacan, belongs i n i ts entirety to Western racism
and imperialism - that i t i s still ethnology' s good savage, slightly
l i bi dinalized, which he i nheri ts wi th the concept? I t will be necessary
t o take a detour here, t o exami ne Baudrillard' s criti que of the idea of
The Desire Named larx 1 07
nature, to refute the dichotomy he proposes between the 'good
nature' which would be what lets itself be 'civilized', that is to say,
dominated and exploited, and a ' bad nature' which would be
rebellious. Carried away as he is against the materialism of forces
and relations of production, which in fact demands this separation,
he forgets that there is constantly, within Western political , that is,
also sociological and ethnological, thought, since at least Plato in the
Timaeus who will seek the guardians of his utopian Atlantis amongst
the very ancient Egyptian ' savages', and certainly in Marx's socio
economic thought, there is the wholly inverted reference of a good
rebel nature, of a nature good insofar as it is rebellious, insofar
therefore as it is left outside, forgottell, foreclosed. Ethnology in its
entirety, Levi-Strauss's as much as Jaulin's, emanates from this
phantasy (which is in its turn only one case amongst many of the
representationalization [mise-en representation] proper to the West,
proceeding from its logophilia) . We will show this in Marx, not in
order to convince that this is the case, rather through a species of
pleasure, through afection for the young girl that he is, dreaming
of reconciliation and believing that this had taken place in the past,
somewhere else, and that she and her lover, the proletariat, had been
deprived of it. We will show that, speaking of the archaic labourer,
this feminine Marx has some resonances not unrelated in general to
those of Baudrillard forging his myth of symbolic exchange.
for what happens to whomever does not want to recognize that
political economy is libidinal, is that he reproduces in other terms the
same phantasy of an externalized region where desire would be
sheltered from every treacherous transcription into production,
labour and the law of value. The phantasy of a non-alienated region.
Methodologically, to retrace Marx's movement, even extending it
to the position of desire, begins religion all over again; so much so
that there is something almost tragic when Baudrillard parodies the
famous statement of 1 843: ' for Germany, the critique of religion is
substantially over', by writing: ' The critique of political economy is
substantially over. ' For, in this text of 1 843, which intends to start
something else, a politics which would be non-philosophical, that is to
say, religious, Marx allows his thoroughly religious love for a lost
consubstantiality of men amongst themselves and with nature to
show through: it is there in particular that his desire for return, so
similar to that of Rousseau, gives itself free rein, weaving the
absolutely Christian scenario of the martyr of the proletariat as the
Li hidinal E((momy
sa cri fI cial epi sode necessary to the fnal sal vati on: ' A cl ass must be
formed which has radical chai ns , a cl ass i n civil society whi ch i s not a
class of civil society, a cl ass whi ch is the di ssol uti on of all cl asses . . .
a sphere which i s . . . a total l oss of humani ty and whi ch can onl y
redeem i tsel fby a total redempti on of humani ty, ' 1 1 etc.
I am not saying that thi s scenario exists in Baudri l l ard, far fom it;
but there i s, inevitabl y, the reproduction of that same thi ng whi ch
underlies it and which Marx' s desi re required ( ' i t is necessary . . . ' ) ,
a region which would not be i n soci ety a nd which would be:
' Generations placed or l ef out of circul ati on, otT iimits, by the very
devel opment of productive forces' ; and of this production of
marginal s , it will be sai d, j ust as, i n the past, Marx sai d of the
production of the prol etari at: ' Nl contradi cti ons emanate from
t hi s. ' 1 2 Once agai n, our i ntenti on i s not to reduce t hat to t hi s, and not
for a moment do we stop l ovi ng and stoki ng the anger of the anti
economi st. Moreover, he takes a grea t deal of care to show that these
contradi cti ons arc i n no way ' di al ecti cal ' , and to oppose subversion
(which docs not i tsel f enter the order of pol i ti cal economy) to the
cl ai ms and counter-cl ai ms whi ch are just the basi c constituents of
t he game which capi tal pl ays wi th i t sel f There i s no di al ecti c i n
laudri l l ard, and this i s because the sl l hversi l'c n'rCI I ({' , that of the
good savage and the good hi ppy, i s i n hi s eyes positillcl y present i n
moder society, not lc<atill ei y, as Marx i magines the prol etari at t o
be. The marginals are l i bi di nal affrmati ons, the proletarians were
negations of negation i n a j ourney and a subl ation r reltlle] . We fear
onl y the consequences of this s mall detai l , of this ' methodol ogi cal '
nuance: that the affrmati ve shoul d be del i mi ted as a regi on. Si nce
ever y region gives ri se to regi me and rei gn, to sIgn and mechanism,
and i f therefore all one' s hopes were pl aced i n i t , one i s certain
to despai r. Perhaps, as pol i ti ci ans, we still and always desire to be in
dcspair . . . ?
F,JCry Political Lwnolll y Is Li bidinal
There is one thing, then, whi ch makes us s ay: there i s no pri mi ti ve
s oci ety, that i s to say: there i s no external reference, even i f
i mmanent , from whi ch the separati on of what belongs to capi tal ( or
political economy) and what bel ongs to subversi on (or libi di nal
economy) , can al ways be made, and cl eanl y; where desi re woul d be
clearly l egible, where i t s proper C{omy woul d not be s crambl ed.
The Desire Named ]arx 109
And this shoul d be clearly understood: ' scrambled' does not mean
' thwarted' , tainted, by a foreign, evil instance. This is simpl y the
probl ematic of alienation, it i s, to invoke another brother, what still
belongs i n Anti- Oediplls to the thought of an error or of a criminal
act. ' Scrambl ed' means that the economy of desire cannot be
attributed, just like a mbival ence, not only because it i s Eros and the
death drive, but because the effects of each instance arc i nascribabl e,
as we have said. Scrambl ed then, by i tself and in itselC not crossed
and alienated by anothcr political economic order. There i 5 no
ali enatioll from the instant onc escapes the critical relation. There i s as
much li bidi nal intensi ty in capi tal ist exchange as in the alleged 'symbol i c'
exchange. And this is the second thing to he said in a morc
provocative or affrmative way, concerning our gloss of ' there is no
primitive society' .
Not merely: there is no other ' regional ' reference, but : capitalism
is also a pri mitive society, or: the primitive society is also a capitalism.
This l atter s tatement first : of course, savages do not capitalize goods;
but who considers that it is only the ful ly mercantile i nstance of the
great Zero that sanctions and indeed demands the scrupulous balancing
ofthe infows ald OUtOW5 ofafects (in the form of rel atives, words,
beasts, lives, sexes), hanging over and mai ntaining these societies ?
Take t he ethnological descriptions that you mi ght set against us as
embarrassing counter-examples, t he most embarrassing; at random,
the mad witches that Michel T .eiris frequents in GOlldar, 1 3 the
terrifying murder, the Jakugi' s wooden arch hung for three ni ghts
over the neck of the young girl who must perish, a murder
announced, honoured in all insomniac chant, so admirably des cribed
by Pierre Cl astres . 1 4 Of course there arc extreme intensities here and
there, and a mbivalence, this is the l east one can say. But even this
possibility of the I ndi an hunter' s criminal love and hate with regard
to his fellow countrywoman is not i mportant, nor is the orgasmi c
and mortiferous exal tation of women stained with t he blood of
sacrifi ced beasts; what is i mportant i s that these indisputable
intensities are also read in terms of order, and even of the return to
order, that the tensions whi ch all at once inscribe themselves at the
extremities or at the centre of the social surface fully participate in
the sense that they do not in any way subvert it, but literal l y compose
it, and thus circulate in it as exchangeable, intell i gi bl e, semiotic
signs . Good, Baudrill ard would doubtlessly put up with us speaki ng
in this way: societies of the gift and counter-gift, he woul d s ay.
1 10 LihidiHal FCOflOflY
But , if so, he woul d then have to admi t thi s: that ' symbol i c
exchange' i s al so an exchange i n the sell se of pol i ti cal econom y.
However, l et us now t ry thi s other proposi ti on, and sec what
comcs of i t: this dissimulation of i ntensities i nto val ues and val ues
i nto intensities i s no l ess acti ve in capital i st soci et y. Just as there is a
capi t al i st order of savages ( whi ch sanctiol1s Lcvi -Strauss' s i mperial
i s m, but what i mperi al i sm i s not sancti oned by a guarantor of order,
by a desi re for bal ancing out, acti ve i n the domi nated society
i tsel t) , so there are errant forces in the si gns of capi tal . Not in its
margins as i ts ma!inals, but di ssi mul ated i n i ts most ' nucl ear' . the
most essential exchanges , the most ' al i enated' or ' feti shi zed'
exchanges i n Baudri l l ard' s eyes. I f we do not recogni ze this , then i n
ten years ' time we wi l l start up another new cri ti que, the critique of
the ' cri ti que of the pol i ti cal economy of the sign' . But i t i s
ext raordinari l y di ffcul t to recogni ze the desire 4 cOpitl such as i t i s
i nst antiated here ;d there; as, for exampl e, i n l abour, i n the awful
mundane sense of thc gril 1 d for whi ch not cvcn the worker today has
cnough words of contcmpt and disrepute; or as in the oj(cf, thc
samc object whosc.J Y(( I puisslIl1 ce] 1audri l l ard' s fasci nati on ha s for
i t s part, justi fabl y, so hel ped us to recapturc through i ts power: i sn' t
feti shism an opportunity fr i ntcnsi ties ? Doesn' t i t attest t o an
admi rable force of i nventi on, addi ng events whi ch coul d not be
more i mprobabl e to t he l i bi di nal band? From where woul d you
criticize feti shi sm, when you know that one cannot cri tici ze
homosexual ity or masochi sm without becomi ng a crude bastard of
the moral order? Or agai n i ndeed, investment i n the t i me of capi tal ,
thi s strangc si mul taneous pl aci ng-in-reserve and anticipated expen
diture of liuidinal intensi ties , which i s implIed i n the system of
banking and currency; an anal ysi s of this might bc attempted l ater.
Or more si mpl y, i nvestment i n the system as such. i n general , a
characteristi c by which one Gel l -Man, a great physici an, fnds
hi mself a col l aborator with a Westmorel and, a pathetic scientifc
' criminal ' from the Vietnam war, one characteristic of the decisive
congruence, and doubtl essly not cxcl usive of others , between
s cience and capit al . And yet the i nvest ment i n the system, in val ue, i n
the constitution of pieces of the l i bi di nal band i n terms which onl y
have val ue through ' di fference' or reference, and i n the establish
ment of the laws of these cross-references - that i s to say the
deranged i nvestment in the bond and its accompl i ce, lack ( "Like a
drug whose suppl y one does n' t even ask for again - for the lack of i t
The Desire Named Marx 1 1 1
is as much a having as any other. ' 1 5) - in the sense of Freudian
libidinal economy, in the Metapsychology or The Ego and the Jd, can't
this investment give rise to vertiginous intensities? Were not
Einstein's most artistic inventions also driven by this desire, by the
conviction that God, as he said, certainly does not play at dice? And
what is lost in this? Nothing at all .
But, you will say, it gives rise to power and domination, to
exploitation and even extermination. Quite true; but also to
masochism; but the strange bodily arrangement of the skilled
worker with his j ob and his machine, which is so often reminiscent
of the dispositi of hysteria, can also produce the extermination of a
population: look at the English proletariat, at what capital , that is to
say their labour, has done to their body. You will tell me, however,
that it was that or die. But it is always that or die, this is the law of
libidinal economy, no, not the law: this is its provisional , very
provisional , defnition in the form of the cry, of intensi ties of
desire; ' that or die', i . e. that and dying from it, death always in it, as
its internal bark, its thin nut's skin, not yet as its price, on the contrary
as that which renders it unpayahle. And perhaps you believe that
' that or die' is an altemative?! And that if they choose that, if they
become the slave of the machine, the machine of the machine,
fucker fucked by it, eight hours, twelve hours, a day, year after
year, it is because they are forced into it, constrained, because they
cling to life? Death is not an alternative to it, it is a part of it, it attests
to the fact that there is jouissance in it, the English unemployed did
not become workers to survive, they -hang on tight and spit on me
enjoyed [ ifs ont joui de] the hysterical, masochistic, whatever exhaus
tion it was of hanging on in the mines, in the foundries, in the
factories, in hell , they enj oyed it, enjoyed the mad destruction of
their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them, they
enjoyed the decomposition of their personal identity, the identity
that the peasant tradition had constructed for them, enoyed the
dissolution of their families and villages, and enjoyed the new
monstrous anonymity of the suburbs and the pubs in the morning
and evening.
And let's fnally acknowledge this jouissance, which is similar,
Little Girl Marx was clear on this point, in every way to that of
prostitution, the jouissance of anonymity, the jOlissancc of the
repetition of the same in work, the same gesture, the same comings and
goings in the factory, how many penises per hour, how many
1 1 2 Li bidinal Lwnoln Y
tonnes of coal, how many cast-i ron bars, how many barrels of shi t ,
not ' produced' , of course, but clldurcd, the salll c pil riS (rthc [} (ldy used,
made usc of, to the total excl usi on of others, and just as the
prosti tu tes ' vagi na or mouth arc hysteri cally (/ /csfiz ctizcd, through
usc, through bei ng used, so t he worker' s ear as described and
analysed by TOl ll ati s , who, next to an alternator functi oni ng at
20, O()( ) Hz, peacefull y wri tes hi s letters and hears the fnest noi ses;
and when Tomati s makes hi s audi ogramme study, he noti ces that
the resonant range corres pondi ng to the alterator functi oni ng at
20, O()() Hz, is neutrali zed, III l 1 te. I-l ence a hysteri cal treatment of a
fraction of the audi tory body, whore assemblage, the libi di nal lI se
demanded, of course, by the ' condi ti ons of labour' , whi ch arc also,
however, those of prosti tut i on. I t goes wi t hout sayi ng, of course,
that we say thi s wi thout any condemnat i on, wi thout any regret, on
the contrary by di scoveri ng t hat there has been, and perhaps sti ll i s,
the extraordi nary di ssi lll ulated-di ssi mubt i ng force of the worker,
fl rCe of resi stance, t) rce ofjol / issil l 1 ((, i n the hysteri cal madness of
the condi ti ons oflabour whi ch the sociologi sts would callfrO,\III lt('l/
wi thout seei ng what libi di nal i ntensi ti es these fragments can convey
O.frtl,III (, 1I ts .
How can we continue to speak of ali enati on when it is clear that
tr everybody, i n the experiences he has (and that more often than
l lot he cannot properly have, si nce these experiences are allegedly
s hameful, and especially si nce i nstead of having t hem, he i s these
experiences) of even the most st upi d capitali st labourer, that he can
fnd JOIissanre and a strange, perverse i ntensi ty, what do we know
about i t? - when it is clear that not one ' productive' or ' artistic' or
' poetic' metamorphosis has ever been accompl i shed, nor will be, by
a unitary and totalized organic body, but that i t is ahvays at th\ price
of its alleged di ssol ution and therefre of an inevi table stupidity
that this has been pos sible; when i t i s c1\ar that t here has never been,
nor ever will be such a disso/uti( for the good reason that there has
never been nor \ver wi l l be such a body bound up i n i t s uni t y and
identity, t hat t hi s body i s a phantasy, i t sel f fai rl y li bidinal, erotic and
hygienic = Greek, or eroti c and supernatural = Christian, and that i t
is by contrast with thi s phantasy that all alienation i s thought and
resented i n the sense of res senti ment which i s the feeling aroused by
the great Zero as the desire for return. But the body of primitive
savages is no more a whole body than that of the Scottish miners of
a century ago, there is no whol e body.
The Desire Named Marx 1 1 3
Finally, you must also realize that suchjouissancc, I am thinking of
that of the proletariat, is not at all exclusive of the hardest and most
intense revolts. Jouissancc is unbearable. It is not in order to regain their
dignity that the workers will revolt, break the machines, lock up the
bosses, kick out the deputies, that the victims of colonization will set
the governors' palaces on fire and cut the sentries' throats, no, it is
something else altogether, there is no dignity; Guyotat has so
admirably put this into writing with regard to Algeria. 1( There arc
libidinal positions, tenable or not, there are positions invested which
are immediately disinvested, the energies passing onto other pieces
of the great puzzle, inventing new fragments and new modalities of
jouissance, that is to say of intensifcation. There is no libidinal
dignity, nor libidinal fraternity, there are libidinal contacts without
communication (for want of a 'message'). This is why, amongst
individuals participating in the same struggle, there may exist the
most profound miscomprehension, even if they arc situated in the
same social and economic bracket. If somc Algerian fghts for four
years out in the brush or for a few months in the urban networks, it
is because his desire has become the desire to kill, not to kill in
general, but to kill an invested part, still invested, there' s no doubt
about it, of his sensitive regions. Would he kill his French master?
More than that: he would be killed as the obliging servant of this
master, to disengage the region of his prostitute's consent, to seek
other jouissances than prostitution as a model, that is to say as the
predominant modality of investment. Nevertheless, instantiating
itself in murder, perhaps his desire remained still in the grip of the
punitive relation that he meant to abandon, perhaps this murder was
still a suicide, a punishment, the price due to the pimp, and still
servitude. But during this same struggle for independence, some
other 'moderate' , even centrist, Algerian, decided on compromise
and negotiation, he sought quite another disposition of jouissance,
his intelligence dismissing such a death and swearing in calculation,
already nourishing contempt for the body and cxalting words as
negotiation demands, hence also his own death as the death of flesh
in general, not as the prostitute hody, a very acceptable death to the
Western talker. Etc.
Now these disparities, which are heterogeneities of investment in
the erotic and deadly fuxes, are of course also found within any
social ' movement' whatsoever, whether minute, on the scale of a
factory, or immense, when it spreads to a whole country or
1 1 4 Li bidinal Economy
conti nent. But apart from the movements of open revol t, noti ce
t hat these si ngul ar ' hysteri cal ' jouissanccs, for exampl e, or those we
mi ght cal l ' potlll tial ' , so aki n t o modern sci enti fci ty, or agai n those
by which a ' body' i s i nstal l ed wi thi n the i ncreased reproducti on of
capi tal , where it is enti rely subordi nated to the measurement of time
saved and ti me advanced - and indeed all these i nstanti ati ons
( brtal l y sketched here) , even when the capi tal i st machine i s
hummi ng i n the apparent general boredom and when everyody
seel l l s to do their job wi thout moani ng, all these l i bi di nal i nstantia
ti ons, these l i ttle disposit ij's of the retenti on and fow of the i nfuxes
of desire are tl cvcr ull cql l i vow/ and cannot gi ve ri se to a soci ol ogi cal
readi ng or all unequivocal pol i ti cs, to a decodi ng i nto a defnabl e
l ni s and synt ax; puni shll el lt i nci tes bot h submi ssi on and revolt,
power, the fasci nati on of pri de and autodepreciative depressi on,
every ' disci pl i ne' demands passi on and hate, even if these arc onl y
the illdWi'rl't/(c in Marx' s sell se, of whomever performs i t . Ilcnce
ambi val ence, sai d Baudri l l ard. And we say: much more than that,
sOl l l ethi ng else besides this condensed house of l ove and di sgust or
fear, whi ch i n general will be vul nerabl e to the attack of a semi oti c
or hermeneutic anal ysi s of affects; no i nterpretef i s afrai d of
pol ysemi a; but at t he same t i me and i ndi scernibly something which
i s a functioning Of dytl(tioning term in a system, and something
\hi ch is abruptl y i mpl acable j oy and sufferi ng; at once ambivalent
si gni fcation and tension, di ssi mul ated into one another. Not onl y
the and/or, but the silent comma: ' , ' .
Every Political EcoHomy Is Li bidinal (contd)
How many iron bars, tonnes of sperm, decibels of carnal shrieks
and factory noises , more and sti l l more: thi s more may be invested as
such, it is i n capi tal , and i t must be recognized that not only i s i t
completely i nane, we ful l y accept this , i t i s no more nor l ess vai n
than either pol i ti cal di scussi on on the agora or the Peloponnesi an
war, but i t i s especi al l y neces sary t o recogni ze that this i s not even a
mat ter of production. These 'products' are not products, what
counts here, i n capi tal , i s that they are endured and endured in
quantity, i t i s the quanti ty, the i mposed number that i s i tsel f already a
motive for intensi t y, not the qual i tati ve mutati on of quantit y, not at
al l , but as i n Sade the frightening number of bl ows recei ved, the
number of postures and manoeuvres requi red, the necessary
The Desire Named larx 1 1 5
number of victims, as in Mina Boumedine, the abominable quantity
of penises which penetrate through many entrances into the woman
who works lying on the oilcloth on a table in the back room of a bar:
She sucks and shakes in a sweaty haze / she sucks the knobs waved
in her face / she shudders as the trouser fies wound her / her vision
reels I entrances and sham exits I awakening in hospital / the bar
door grinds I Mina is this door / diastole and systole / her heart is
going to burst / she attempts to count the openings of the door /
she says to herself that she will become so many dicks / she loses
count and retains the grinding / she is made to drink coca / she has
a funny taste at the bottom of her throat I she is a wounded bird I a
shivering bruised bird / she lies at the roadside I she has had an
accident . . . You have counted well / not all the time / you rested
against me yes all the time / I didn't leave you for a moment / the
fortieth in the cunt alone / Mina in quarantine / I disgust you / tell
me that I disgust you / I will play the whore for you / I will do my
hundred a day on the oilcloth with the little blue squares / the smell
of the acetylene torch / the whistling of the torch / the whistling
of its suffering / she is dead assassinated / in the light of the
wretches / she was dead here for months / for years / the hundred
a day on the oilcloth in the back shop and the bucket of water /
when she was fnished to reawaken her / the frozen bucket of
water / and all at once all over again the whistling of the lamp /
then she was not dead / she was not dead enough / she had to start
again . . .
Use erogenous ZMle numbers,
more and still more, isn't this a decisive
instantiation of intensity in capitalism? Are we, intellectual sirs, not
actively or passively [assi vons] 'producing' more and more words,
more books, more articles, ceaselessly reflling the pot-boiler of
speech, gorging ourselves on it rather, seizing books and 'experi
ences', to metamorphose them as quickly as possible into other
words, plugging us in here, being plugged in there, just like Mina on
her blue squared oilcloth, extending the market and the trade in
words of course, but also multiplying the chances of jouissance,
scraping up intensities wherever possible, and never being suff
ciently dead, for we too are required to go from the forty to the
hundred a day, and we will never play the whore enough, we will
never be dead enough.
And here is the question: Why, political intellectuals, do you
il cline towards the proletariat? I n commiseration fr what? I realize
Lihidil l al lwI / o/II Y
t hat a prol etari an woul d hate you, you have no hatred because you
arc bourgeoi s, pri vi l eged smoot h-s ki nncd types, but al so because
you dare not S;I Y the onl y i mportant thi ng t here i s t o say, that one can
enj oy swal l owi ng the shi t of capi tal , i ts materi al s, i t s metal bars, i ts
pol ystyrene, i ts books, i t s s aus age P;tcs, s wal l owi ng t onnes of i t t i l l
you burst - and because i ns tead of sayi ng t hi s, whi ch i s (1/so what
happens i n t he desi re of t hose who work wi t h t hei r hands , arscs and
hCl ds , ah, you become a l eader of 1 / 1 (' 11 , what a l eader ofpil/ lps, you
l ean forward and di vul ge: ah, but t hat ' s al i enat i on, i t i s n' t prct t y,
h,l I l g on, we' l l save you from i t , we wi l l work to l i berate you from
thi S wi cked afcti on for servi t ude, we wi l l gi ve you di gni t y. And
i n t hi s way you si tu at e yoursel ves on t he mos t despi cabl e s i de, t he
l l l oral i st i c s i de where you des i re t hat our capi t al i zed' s desi re be
t ot al l y i gnored, forbi dden, brought to a st andst i l l , you arc l i ke
pri est s wi t h si nners, our servi l e i ntensi ti es fri ghten you, you have t o
t el l yoursel ves : how t hey mus t s uter t o endure t hat ! And of course
we sl l tr, Wl' the capi t al i zed, but t hi s docs not mean t hat we do not
el 1 J oy, nor t hat what you t hi nk you can ofr us as a remedy - for
what ) - docs not di s gus t us , even more . We abhor therapeuti cs and
i t s vasel i ne, we prefr t o burs t under t he quanti tat i ve excesses that
you j udge t he most stupi d. And don' t wai t for our spontanei t y to
ri sc up i n revol t ei ther.
Let me open a parenthesi s of hat red, here, a word wi l l suffi ce
agai nst the great cesspool of consol ati ons cal l ed spontaneity and
(I"('tl til ' ity, that some dare t o connect onto the courses, wayward
certai nl y, but never vul gar until then, traced by the i mpul sions of
Socialisme 01 1 harbayie in the fel d of pol i ti cal practice and theory. I n
1 'H, apparently ove, Luestiol ls of rheory and orientati on, we broke
with Castoriadis who, ri ghtl y bored with reassessi ng hi stori cal ,
di al ectic :d diarrhoetic materi al i sm, nevertheless proposed to put
i n i ts pl ace t he abomi nable super-male t hi ng of generalized
creati vi ty: i n moder capi tal i sm, he expl ai ned (but read i t your
sel ves, he is publ i shi ng his compl ete \orks 1 <) , the central probl em is
no longer expl oi tati on, but the destructi on of any real human
communication, the anni hi l ati on of men' s capaci ty to ceaselessl y
create, by themsel ves , sponte sua, new forms of rcl ati ons wi th the
worl d and with others . Agai nst pri vati zati on, he bri ngs back active
soci alizati on; agai nst al i enati on, thi s al ways acti ve creati vi ty. Every
where and al ways, creativi t y. From what do men (women, children,
let' s not leave anyone out) suffer in ' afuent' societ y? From their
The Desire Named Marx 117
solitude and from becoming passive; and why? Because their power
to communicate and to love, their capacity to invent new responses,
and to try them out on the most radical problems, is annihilatcd, he
says, by the bureaucratic organization not only of their working
lives, but of every aspect of their lives. A bureacracy which is not
some small defect in the otherwise complete social body, fr
example, in the sense in which the Poujadists speak of administra
tive bureaucracy, Crozier genially seeing in it the relinquishment of
the old royal, Jacobin centralism, in administrations (sic), Trotsky
denouncing it as a cancer devouring a state which is othcrwise
proletarian. No: global bureaucratization, as Bruno Rizzi said. 2o
But of course, under the name (although it is very clumsily
inherited from Trotskyism) of bureaucracy, we were quite in
agreement that this had to be understood: not a new political
phenomenon, not only an extension of the apparatus to new sectors
of social life, not only thc simple consolidation of a new dominant
social class, but moreovcr the production of anothcr humanity for
which the revolutionary thought of making that we inherited after a
fashion from Marx, even if this was through the entirc leftist
opposition, was no longer appropriate. And wc were quite in
agreement that it was necessary, in a sense, 'to restart the revolu
tion', 21 as the introductory text presented by Castoriadis and his
group was entitled. Nevertheless, we went over to the adverse camp
which continued Pouvoir Ouvrier for some time, a camp classed as
traditionalist in questions of diamat and histmat, 22 and which on the
contrary should have been called a camp for refugees or homeless
persons, so diverse were the preoccupations of those who found
themselves in it, as the discords which erupted after the frst
attempts at theoretical or practical research and the resignations
If! mention a word on this subject, and on purpose a thoughtless
word at that, it is: (1) because it serves nothing to shroud the afir in
the solemn dress which tends to envelop 'Politics on the grand scale'
and which is so inclined to maintain the already established myth of
Socialisme ou barbarie, a myth that should be damned more than any
other; (2) so that our readers arc warned that our weighty predeces
sors are as light as our successors; (3) so that they consider our fight
into libidinal economy for what it is, the solution to a long pain and
the breach out of a difficult impasse; (4) and so that they understand
these few lines of hatred as thc expression of our laughtcr, behind
llH Lihidinal iCOIlOIn},
our angn, at the hole that Castoriadis believed he had made, and
made others believe he had made, in the wall which was obstructing
everything we did as 'militants', our thoughts, our lives, our acts
(and this was no small matter, it wasn't a question of having the
party card, or selling political rags on a Sunday moring in the
market), our laughter at, and against, this hole which connected us
onto nothing which we already did not know, which did not make
our bodies and heads tce towards unheard-of dispositions at all, but
which wisely channelled them towards a 'new' 1';.;011 (f the world,
towards a 'new' thinkillg, towards a humanism of creators at heart
similar to that of some big, philanthropic American /oss, towards a
theor}, yet again, a theory of generalized alienation which neces
sarily implied as its double a theory of generalized creativity - the
only means known, since Hegel and undoubtedly Jesus as well, of
not being alienated without being god. Thnd(He a 'new' religion,
then, man made god, a Faustian religion which betrayed as ever and
con tin lied to betray its antiquatedness, as an innocent friend
remarked to us one day, in the incoherence of the very expression
'worker's power' [polllo;r OIlvrierj.
For 'worker', that ought to have been the taking into considera
tion of the very j(Ce [puissance j of what is dominated, and it is not
thell a matter of revealing the scandal of power as what could
console or cure him: not just because no-one has to judge it (and I am
not even sa ying: if not the interested parties themselves - since it is
no more them than any others, without doubt); but again because
this force belonged to us as politicians, it was for us to lower the fag
before it, to take it into full consideration, and then the perspective
of power woulJ be abandoned, it shouid not have begun, as soon as
it was perceived, and perceived in its extension, to be understood
negatively, by nihilists refusing to call it Jrce [puissance], the force
of holding the untenable, and also the force of not holding it and
making everything shake, the self included - hurrying, on the
contrary, to call it privatization, passivation, alienation, Joss of
creativity, that is to say, hurrying to set it up as lack and present the
maximum as the thing to bring about or bring back. Finally we need
not have said: restart the revolution, instead, and this would have
been the hole, we had to say: let's also eliminate the idea of
revolution which became and which perhaps had always been a little
nothing of an idea, the idea of a reversal of position in the sphere of
political economic power and therefore the idea of laintaining this
The Desire Named Marx 119
sphere, or even, to be fairer to Castoriadis, the idea of a reversal of
position in al l spheres; even this thought of a generalized reversal
had to be broken in its turn, for it was once again a wall, the same
wall of the same impasse, since where there is thought of reversal,
there is the theory of alienation, nihilism and theoretician-saviours,
heads, depositories of knowledge. ' Thinking heads arc always
connected by invisible threads to the body of the people', a delighted
Marx wrote to Meyer (21 January 1871).
This is where my hatred lies: knowledge carried on, we thought
we had correct knowledge - how very sophisticated to know,
knowing that one does not know, to know, presenting oneself
sincerely as not knowing, to know how to construct in an open,
decided, instigating way, the knowledge ultimately of an analyst -;
and so, thanks to this piece of sophistication, we hoped to avoid
adultery -not the thoroughly legal and well-sanctioned nuptials -of
this knowledge with power, we said: we are militants who are no
longer militants, we are no longer the bearers of good news, we put
ourselves at the service of people when they desire to do something,
a strike, a boycott, an occupation, etc. , whosejrm is not established,
we will be their agents, their go-between, we will draw up their tracts,
circulate them, we will be almost non-existent -and I have to say
that this was all well and good, this desire for a servant's position in
the homes of these men who were born masters, this search for
hysteria, Lacan said, for these inevitably paranoid militants. But we
kept going with knowledge, since absolute mind may indeed make
itself the servant, it must become the dialectical servant of all the
regions it traverses, the words it utters do not say what they mean,
they are equivocal, not at all in the sense of dissimulation, equivocal
on the contrary because interchangeable, the dirty little
ambivalence, the master becoming the servant and thereby becom
ing or rebecoming the true master, the militant doing away with
himself as the boss (or even as the little soldier of the revolution) and
thereby remaining the true boss, the words from the mouth turned
humbly towards the sun were already the words of the power to
come, sent out fom the tribunal, because they belong to knowl
edge, the new revolution began again before turning sour like its
predecessors, should its new servants play its spokesmen.
Hatred for the fac-simile. What does it matter what you say if the
position of discourse remains the same? (Within the group, only
Philippe Guillaume understood that early on. ) To restart the
12() Libidillal EC0110lllY
revolution is not to rebegin it, it is to cease to sec the world alienated,
lIlell to be saved or helped, or even to be s('rllcd, it is to abandon the
lIlasculine position, to listen to femininity, stupidity and madness
without regardillg them as evils. Hatred for the pimp who di.\!lIis('s
himself as a girl without having the desire to be one, sinister
lIlasculine caricature of the nobleman in drag.
End of the outburst. Henouncing therefore critique and consola
tion. Quantity can be in vested as such, and this is 1101 an alienation
(and, furthermore, it existed in the 'prestigious' consumption of so
called precapitalist societies - but 1audrillard knows this better than
we do). Fragmentation can be in vested as such, and this is Ilot an
alienation. It is a phantasy, not simply reactionary, but constitutive
of Westem theatricality, to believe that there were societies where
the body was not fragmented. There is no organic body for libidinal
economy; and no more is there a libidillil!!)ody, a strange compromise
of a concept frolll Wester medicine and physiology with the idea
of the libido as energy su bject to the indiscerible regimes of Eros
and death. Fran\ois Guery, in his comlllentary on the flrth section
of Book 1 of Capilli!, 2. shows that the humanist protests, such as
those of Friedman or Marcuse, against part time work rest on an
error in the localization of the scissioll 4 the body: of course, he says,
the body of capital, in taking possession of the productive body in
the factories as Marx described it, and a fortiori in large semi
automated industry, breaks the organic body into independent
parts, requiring 'an almost superhuman subtlety' of some of them
which 'will go hand in hand with a more and more extensive
mechanization of skilled actions'; but, he adds, this is 'only an
allachrunistic phenomenon affecting the antique mIxture of the
biological and the productive body. The really great scission of the
body is not there.' It 'relics on another scission, practised in the very
heart of the biological body: the one between the body, then reduced
to a machinery, and the intellectual forces of production, the head,
the brain, whose present state is the sojitare of the information
scientists. '24 How are we to understand that the really pertinent
cutting line is, for Guery, this one rather than the frst? This is
because he admits a certain image of the medieval corporation, or
rather the eternal corporation, operative 'throughout antiquity', until
the Middle Ages, an image which is that forged by Marx and which
is that of a 'body machining forces', 'the organic forces of the
human body, ilcluding the head'. And Guery insists: 'This has its
The Desire Named Marx 121
importance: the man's head is machined by the corporation, but as
an organic part of the body. There is no question, then, of an
internal hierarchy where the head would he spacially and
qualitatively situated at the summit, higher than the manual forces,
the lungs, the arms, fngers, legs and feet. '
Let us admit that, in the feld of productive labour, the corpora
tion is indeed this non-hierarchical body; it remains the case that such
a characterization stands only on condition that this field is isolated,
separated from the political organization from which it is taken,
whether this be Oriental despotism, the free town, the city, or the
empire, and - to stay with Greece - on condition that the appearance
of speech as political tahur is not taken into account, which is
equivalent, all things being equal, to a process of cephalization and
even of capitalization reducing each manual task to a fragmentation
subordinated to the political body. In other words, the head did
indeed exist in the age of the corporation, not in the corporation
perhaps, but certainly in the 'social body'. The social body may not
be the body of political economy in our age, and the productive
body does not perhaps take on the form of the concentration of the
partial drives (for it is a question of these), it is the political body
which effects this concentration, but it is no less extant here, and the
folding down onto the central Zero, which is not necessarily
currency (in Sparta, for example), but always the centre of speech
and the sword, sets up no less of a hierarchization of these pulsions
and social entities where they give way to free play in a privileged
This much will be said of a non-political, therefore a 'primitive'
or a savage society, given that concentration does not take place in
war and discourse, at least not systematically. What we must take a
look at here, beyond an 'error' which appeared to be an error of
detail, is the phantasy, so powerful and constant in the best Marxist
heritage, of a happy state of the working body, this happiness being
(in the pure tradition of the West) thought as the self-unity of all its
parts. But under examination, this phantasy will be seen to be
nothing other than Baudrillard's primitive society in another guise.
'Symbolic exchange' is also a political economic exchange, just as the
law of civic speaking in Athens, and the tetralogos2h is also a law of
the mercantilization of discourse, and, complementarily, just as the
scrupulous fragmentation of tasks in the regulated disciplines
implies their suhordination to a central Zero which, while not being
professional (perhaps), is no less the caput of the alleged social body.
122 Libidinal Economy
There Arc No Primitive Societies
One more word on symbolic exchange. In violation of our
principles, let's devote a few pages to criticizin,R it. It is an idea in
which two concepts of the symbolic come to be confounded: the
Maussian concept of the gift charged with ambivalent affects, the
Lacanian concept of an order, as a marker of discontinuity. which
makes the materials (for example, the day's residues in the dream
work) sn!y by their simple and arbitrary insertion into chains. But
let's leave this slightly academic critique by way of the confusion of
concepts, to release its intensity in that form in which it appeared to
us, olle evening when between a piece of music by Kagel and a piece
by Boulez we were pissing in the deserted urinals in the
DOllaueschingen KOllzerthalle. Where docs it go? we wondered.
And the idea formed that the fear of impotence r impuissancc] is this
question: what if it went nowhere? That is to say: uncOllllected
pieces of the body, not entering into the circuit of metamorphoses.
It is going to be lost? No, rather the opposite: it is going to remain.
Impotence (which is not powerlessness, which may on the contrary be
power) would therefore be: it remains, it no longer metamorphoses.
It is not at all a question of castration, but of keeping the
metamorphic currents separate, non-connection in relation to the
passages of intensity, depression.
Now, here comes the question of symbolic exchange: this fear is
not, as we have thought, the fear of no longer being able to give. The
category of the gift is a theatrical idea, it belongs to semiology, it
presupposes a subject, a limit of his proper body and his property,
and rhe generous transgressIOn of this property. When Lacan says:
to love is to give what one has not, he means: to forget that one is
castrated. It should mean: one never has anything, there is no
subject, and so there is nothing but love; not only is there never
anything to give because one has nothing, but there is no-one to
give, or to receive. It is in the theory of signs that donatory exchange
(or the gift as the primitive Jorm of exchange) may be represented as
the attribution or devolution of an object charged wirh affects to
someone who at the beginning of the cycle didn't have it: for the sign
isjust something which replaces something else, hides and manifests
something else, for someone, Jor the addressee (and also for the
sender). This problematic, coming from Jakobson to Lacan, that is
to say the theory of communication, carries with it the entire
The Desire Named Marx 123
philosophy of the subject, the philosophy of a body haunted by
self-appropriation and property since the theory of communication
is obviously just as much a piece of economic theory. Mauss must
not be read as the discovery of a 'precapitalist', or at lest a
mercantilist, economy, but as the invention and the perfecting, in
the heart of this economy, of its indispensable complement of
anteriority-exteriority. Replace the gift with symbolic exchange
and you remain in the same sphere, for exchange also takes place
amongst unitary bodies or those destined to be unitary, even if they
are prevented for ever (by the 'bar of the signifer') from bringing
this unity about, and even if they are always driven by their splitting
in two, by the Entzweiung, as Hegel used to say, to exchange
something, even if only pieces of themselves; the exchangists
remain perforated, like poles or ideas of (mercantilist) reason rather
than as existants, it remains that exchange requires this polarization,
this encephalization, and an in-and-out movement, a cycle of fows,
the circle of a market and its central balance. Whether or not one
exchanges affects does not modify this confguration, it simply
dramatizes it.
And so we see that we will not manage to adjust new 'it is
necessary' statements to the great skin by swapping mercantilist
exchange for symbolic exchange. To criticize production is neces
sarily also to criticize exchange, all exchange, its concept. Exchange
is no less 'humanist' than production. If we must get away from
production, and we must, let's also give exchange the slip, the
instantiation of fuxes and afects on these exchangist-entities.
Circulation is no less suspect than production, it is only, as Marx
well knew, a particular case of production taken in the broad sense. Let's
rather place ourselves in the sense of this production in the broad
sense, which is the general metamorphosis of everything which
takes place on bodies and inscribes itself into the social body,
haunted by the idea of a ceaseless general metamorphosis, or of a
general production without inscription, which is nothing other than
the great skin; we wonder instead what are the characteristics of the
fgure which makes the passage from this latter to inscribed
production, the characteristics of the dispositif of inscription which
constitutes social voluminosity.
The moral of the Donaueschingen urinal was experienced before
its time in a similar environment: in the men's toilets of the
Department of Mathematics and Information Science in the
124 Lihidinal EWtlOlIlY
University of Aarhus, a small photo-electric device set off a
fushing in the pan as soon as, your fies unzipped, you got your penis
near it. Therc you havc a 'ncw statcmcnt' and the certainty that there
is no impotence; except through depression.
We clil now pursue this 'critique' of symbolic exchange, still for
pleasure, and it may even happen that we make some important
discovcries herc. There is a cOlldells1lioll in the idea of this exchangc,
it is therefore a very libidinal idea (and wc love it as much as
Baudrillard can love it, but there is a desirc cven greater than ours, a
desire latent in capitalist society, which docs not love this condensa
tion, and which must be understood): a condensation, as we said,
between Mauss's idea, which is a phenomenological description of
interhulllan relations, :d Lacan's, which is a structuralist theory of
the cutting up of clements of 'reality' and the production of
meaning. In symbolic exchange there is implied, thnd'ore, the
relation of one subject to others, mediated by objects counting only
as symbols of ambivalent affects, love and death (potlach passes for
a model in this regard), and, at the same time, a .1 (lIIcllI 11 I relation
which dcrermines (arbitrarily and according to each culture) the
qualities and quantities of the objects likely to become such
symbols. When Baudrillard says: there is no savage unconscious, is
he doing anything other than expressing, in a provocative fashion,
the aforementioned condensation: that is, affrming that conscious
ness in its entirety (exchange between persons) receives and assumes
in primitive societies the unconscious in its entirety (the organization
cutting up the symbols and their exchange), and that there is no
impenetrable remainder?
ThIS condensatIOn IS very lIteresting by itself: supported by the
Lacanial reading of Freud, it refers to the common 'source' of
Lacan and Mauss, which is chapter 4 of The Phcllo/lcllolo of Mind.
The struggle for recognition, which is of course the model,
spontaneous or controlled, allowing Mauss to decipher potlach and
extend its range, is also what haunts the image that Lacan has frmed
for himself of the lnconscious. But there is already in this image a
primary condensation bcrween death in the Hegelian dialectic and
castration in Freudian dramatics. If consciousncss intends to leave
the simple certainty of the self, it mlst lcap outside the particularity
of its 'natural life' , explains Hegel, and this leap can only take place
on condition that this particularity is in effect renounced. Since it is
'my life', its negation is my death, and consciousness can only attain
The Desire Named Marx 125
universality on condition that it accepts the risk of thi s irreversible
expenditure, i.e. that it gives up its life. So what is this but the Other?
asks Lacan - i f not the master who makes ' consciousness' tremble
suffciently for it to abandon its concern to be ' recognized' and
withdraws into the equivocality of its risked-maintained par
ticularity or of its hoped for-lacking universality. The splitting of
the subject which gives rise to the unconsciolls requires this
suspended death, terror i n the face of , castration' , the menace of the
law, that is to say of the sword of justice. Therefore relinquishment
i s constitutive of the s ubject.
That ultimately in Hegel there is Vergebung, Verso/mung, remis
sion, reconciliation, in the theme of absolute knowledge or of the
subject-substance, is apparent even though it is without doubt not
illegitimate to show that the very category of the Auhehun,, of this
annihilation fll of reserve, i s less well oiled than it might appear,
and can conceal the extreme risk of madness in the void.27
Conversely, one might suspect that with Lacan, the reader of Freud,
the non-reconciliati on, the impossibility for the Ego to come to
' where It [Ca] was ' , is insurmountable. Far from it, however; even
at the privileged thematic l evel of the effcacity of the cure,28
entirely thought in terms of dialectics ; but, more seriousl y still, the
Vergebung is present in thought as the quality of the schema; that the
unconscious is conceived (and practised) not as the other of
discourse, but as the discourse of the Other, results from a simple
reversal which assures the subject, split in two all the s ame, of a
second-level unity, a meta-unity which is not, of course, that of
consciousness itself, but rather of language (that i s, the language of
phil osophers or thinkers) . For i f the unconscious is structured like a
language, even though consciousness cannot say everything because
of its perpetual splitting in search of death-castration, the ulsay
able, the ' part' of the subject which is submerged in this primitive
fear is still talking; the unconscious of course says something other
than what consciousness says, and it doesn't know what it is saying;
a dialogue or a dialectic of both halves is nevertheless practicabl e:
Lacan calls it the cure. Remission of the principle is thus constituted
by the silence of the master; although he refuses recognition, and
one does not enter into dialogue with him, although he does not
respond, but kills or threatens, whereas he is content, as Job did to
his irascible father, to remind his Knecht that without him, he would
be nothing, the Unnameable - well, despite everything, there is the
Li bidinal Econolll y
hope, in Lacan, that silence will be given up, simply because death is
assimilated to the life of the mind, to speech. ')
By saying the unconscious is the discourse of the Other, Freud is
reincorporated into Hegel, Judaism, for which the latter neverthe
less demonstrates such an aversion, is recovered in Hellenic or
Christian mediacy. One should remind oneself a little: the Jews, for
Ilcgcl, are the failure of the dialectic, that is, the failure of love; they
are the rupture, incarated in the story of Abraham, of all links with
a homeland, with kinship, solitude in the face of a hostile nature,
and impotence as regards being reconciled with it as Nimrod,
]eucalion and Pyrrha were. 'The Jews could not, as the fanatics did
bter, abandon themselves to disintegration or death caused by
hunger, because they were attached not to an Idea, but an animal
existence; and they believed in their god because, completely
separate from nature, they found reunion with this latter in him by
virtue of a domination. '30
The Jews are not attached to an Idea, but to an animal existence;
and they are therefore bestiality, a species of sick bestiality, against
nature or unnatural, which can subsist only by recourse to the
infnite, immense domination of a Master; and he will promise
animal survival, the satisfaction of needs, but on condition that his
domination is accepted and accepted ceaselessly, without dialogue,
without the love of words and without the love of acts, without
symbolic exchange, simply, in Hegel's sense, but solely through the
gift without counter-gift which is, it appears, prayer and barbaric
sacrifce. ConsequCl tly Abraham and his people are not real servants
nor Yahveh a real master, since this master does not put his slave to
work, and so the latter cannot tear hImself from the terror of the
rupture with nature, from the terror of death, by means of work.
Abraham's existence 'is the impotence of the dialectic of the master
and the slave, or rather the impotence of heing [I'impuissance d'etre],
the absence of this dialectic, the refexive fxation in this natural life
from which this dialectic must leave'.ll In this unnatural nature, in
this bestiality which has lost the means to the satisfaction of its
needs, in this dominated animality which sustains itself through
servitude, do we see in this anything other than the outlines of one
of the principal fgures of the unconscious, or the Id according to
Freud, the fgure of the i mpenetrabi l ity of the body? To dialccticize the
unconscious, as Lacan does, is to convert the Jews to the cult of the
Son, to dissolve their body, furrowed with the ritualistic, absurd
The Desire Named Marx 127
marks of belonging, into the diaphane of the insipid host, to ban
dark bestiality and stupidity, to put the mind where there are
pulsions. So, to posit the primitives as creatures without an
unconscious, is to perform again on the Melanesians and the Indians
the same truly classical-romantic operation that Holderlin and the
young Hegel performed on the Greeks, who were also not supposed
to have an unconscious and to live in reconciliation and limpidity.
To sum up, the genealogy of the 'critique' of Baudrillard's
symbolism: to derive the position of the unconscious from the
phenomenology of consciousness, is to say that what the subect
lacks at the same time as constituting it, is nothing other than what
constitutes discourse-dialogue while never ceasing to escape it, that
is, death, which, for Hegel, is the element in which the life of the
mind swims, the same thing indeed to which Freud will dedicate
what is without doubt his most frenzied, emotional text, Beyond the
Pleasure Principle, where, however, he seeks to thematize it under the
name of the death drives as what, far from entering into a dialectical
relation with Eros-Logos, compels the repetition of the disorder
until the body is destroyed, until the analysis is rendered 'intermin
able'. To say that savages have no unconscious, is once again to
extend over every silence the imperialism of the tumult made by
Eros, which, as everyone knows today, is quite simply the language
of structure. No, undoubtedly, it must be clearly said: there are no
primitive societies or savages at all, we are all savages, all savages are
capi talized-ca pita I is ts.
Now this problematic of symbolic exchange, don't go thinking
that it is a phantasy foreign to the desire named Marx, it is one of its
principal formations.
Inorganic Body
Since it is the deafening clamour of Eros-Logos which is in
question, let's draw out for a moment the thread, in Marx young
and old, but a woman at every age, of the minor theme of language.
The model for this thematic comes of course from Feuerbach, as
can be seen in the text of his youth: 'The only comprehensible
language that we may speak to each other'; wrote Marx, 32 'are our
objects in relation to one another. We would not understand a
human language, and it would remain ineffective; it would be on
the one hand known and experienced as a prayer, as an imploring,
12H Lihidinal EcmlOmy
and therefore as humiliation; it would thus be uttered in shame and
the feeling of being scorned (Wtlwcmg); and it would be, on the
other hand, received and rejected as a shameless and delirious thing
(als UnvCfschdmtheit odeI' Wahlllitz). We are mutually alienated
(CIllrcmdet) at this point from the human being, the immediate
language of this being would seem to us like a violation of human
dignity, while the alienated language of values makes things appear
to us to be human dignity itself in its full legitimacy, in confdence
and self-recognition.'
What is lacking in the language of tilillg-Faiues (si(hlichc Werte), of
values become things? The affect, what Rousseau called the accent.
In this language, that of venal exchange and, let us add, that of the
comept, which is also the exchange of the commodity of informa
tion, every passion appears delirious; incongruity, the immediacy of
the demand (prayer, supplication) seems to be an obscenity. A
Fel1erbachian problematic, half Lutheran, half Rousseauist. Marx
noticed this in spring I H44, while he was beginning his readings of
political economy, and we can see according to what inevitably
religious problematic. It is at about the same date that he published,
in the Oeutsche-Frmlzisiscile Jahrhichcr, extracts from a peculiar text
of Feuerbach's, On the lsscncc oj Faith in Luther's Sense, where one
should have no trouble discovering this same theme of immediacy
carried to its conclusions: let us complete Luther's work, in
destroying papism, hc eliminatcd mediated alienation; in showing
that God himself is nothing but the fulflment of my desire, one will
keep the supreme being from the fate of ]rremdung; let us sa y then
that God is my god, that is to say me, insofar as he is my jouissance,
and that 'the essence of faith is the essence of scif-love'. 33
Immediacy as the suppression of the !itte, of what is interposed,
belongs to the tradition of the Refrmation, which passes as it is,
through Feuerbach, into the Hegelian left and into Marx, including
his analysis of economics: compare what you have just read
concerning language with what Marx writes, at the same moment,
concerning money: 'Money is the pimp [der Kuppler] between man's
need and the objcct, between his life and his means of life. But that
which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other
people for me. '34 We see then that money for him is the language
spoken by exchange-values. And he assigns this money a very
similar characteristic to equivalence according to Baudrillard:
The Desire Named Marx 129
In money, in total indifference as much with regard to the nature
of the material and the specifc nature of private property, as with
regard to the personality of the private proprietor, this is the
complete domination of the alienated thing over the man who
strives for appearance. What used to be the domination of one
person over another, is now the universal domination of the thing
over the person, of the product over the producer. Just as the
equivalent, value, establishes the alienation of private property,
so money is the sensible, autonomous, ohjective existence, of this
alienation. 35
We see that it is Feuerbachian and Christian when equivalence is
opposed, not exactly to ambivalence (although prayer, supplication,
humiliation, shame, domination, are, let's be careful here, samples
of reasonably 'ambivalent' affects) , but rather to the person, and to
the person as producer. There is an inextricable comhination in these
texts of Feuerbachism, i. e. secular Lutheranism, with political
economy. The splitting of object and subject according to the
opposition use-value/exchange-value or labour-force/lahour-time,
a splitting still thematized in the Contribution, in the Grundrisse, in
Capital, fnds its principle in a rupture or a bifurcation of imme
diacy, itself phantasized as the language of the heart. This impas
sioned language is lost, and neither the papist god in his 'candour', as
Engels said at the time, nor even the reformed hypocrite god, 36 will
be able to reinstate it. And political economy, that is to say capital,
no longer works except to continue this cleavage, making it pass
from hearts to things, and thus faking it. For the commodity-thing
is always marked by the bar, while this latter is effaced. Such is the
'hypocrisy' of political economy, which Marx calls its fetishism,
and which clearly corresponds to what Baudrillard interprets as the
occultation of castration or ambivalence in the 'capitalist' object.
Lost immediacy can only simulate its return in the apparent simplicity
of the thing: it has the status of the fetish.
The analysis of the object as concealing the cleavage proper to
desire is to some extent in continuity with Marx's nostalgia: where
the latter opposes immediacy to mediated alienation, the thought of
the signifer castrator opposes the recognition of this cleavage and
ambivalence to their fetishist foreclosure. The same thing is not, of
course, said in hoth cases, and this is not simply to open a feld where
only the philosopher's and the economist's discourses reign in
questions of desire, which implies at least that one is going to stop
13( Libidittal Economy
thinking of activity alone as productive and reproductive and that
one will accept in principle that it be granted its non-productive Jorce
[pllissance improductive]. What cannot be believed is that to maintain
such an opposition, whether it is given the name of immediacy/
alienation or of cleavage/foreclosure, one settles in the feld of
truth, one compares a capitalist state of things and desire, eventually
judged false or at least deceitful, with an authentic state, one
annihilates what one has, which is effectively capitalism and the
libidinal formations which are found at work there, in favour of
what one has not, i. e. beautiful savagery.
So once again the connivance appears between a philosophy of
alienation and a psychoanalysis of the signifer, both nihilist
religions; apart from Baudrillard's use of this latter, making it slip
into optimism, towards the hope of a restitution of the true state of
desire, whereas the strictly Lacanian version, if indeed it implies a
dialectic of the cure, nevertheless rules out that the illusory objet petit
a, in its function of the fxation of ambivalence and the occlusion of
the 'want-to-signify' [manque a signUerJ, might never be dissipated:
interminable analysis, permanent revolution. But these are nuances
from within one and the same theology, a nihilism of loss: the Jews
no longer await reconciliation and install their libidinal dispositiJ in
the election, the resignation and the humour of the suppressed,
whereas the Christians hope, dialectically, for forgiveness; nev
ertheless they surrender points to one another as concerns nihilism.
In Marx, the alienation of the mediator, contrary to what he thinks,
is still a Christian schema: the mediator must be destroyed, sacrifced
in order that the alienation he fghts, and oj which he is composed, be
removed, nowhere better saId than in the narrative of jesus's
Incarnation and Passion.
You will now tell me that perhaps the young Marx was like this,
but that as he aged, the concern with immediacy and the reference to
a signifying coexistence without alienation disappear. Nothing of
the sort, they are only displaced. The Feuerbachian aspect disap
pears, the Rousseauist aspect predominates. A paradise remains as
secure ground for a critical perspective and a revolutionary project.
This is the paradise of the 'inorganic body', at present: this same
paradise which F. Guery fantasizes under the type of corporate
production 'of all antiquity', which Baudrillard imagines as a body
impassioned with intense ambivalences, anterior to all political
economy, and which Marx - although he comes round to this from
The Desire Named Marx 131
the other perspective, precisely that of political economy - still
suffers from because he needs it, in his critical perspective, as the
quasi-exteriority on which all critique relies in order to criticize its
object; the inorganic body thematized by Marx explicitly in a text as
' late' as the Gndri55e, i n these terms :
What M. Proudhon calls the extra-economic origin of property,
by which he understands just landed property, is the pre
bourgeois relation of the individual to the objective conditions of
labour, and initially to the natural objective conditions oflabour
for, just as the working s ubject appears naturally as an individual,
as natural being - so does the frst objective condition of his labour
appear as nature, earth, as his inorganic body; he himself is not
only the organic body, but also the subject of this inorganic
nature. This condition i s not his product but something he finds to
hand - presupposed to him as a natural being apart from him.37
If now we have not grasped that the expression 'He is the s ubject of
this inorganic nature' is what explains the function of satisaction
fulflled by the inorganic body in Marx' s imagination: in all
precapitalist forms of production, i . e. of the commune, 'the earth (is)
the original instrument of labour as well as its workshop and
repository of raw materials. The individual relates simply to the
objective conditions oflabour as being his; [ the individual relates 1 to
them as the inorganic nature of his subjectivity, in which the latter
realizes itself (as subject) . ' 38 Are we in immediacy ? Yes , but this
immediacy includes communal collectivity (communist) , which is
als o therefore a part of nature: ' This relation to land and soil , to the
earth, as the property of the labouring individual ... is instantly
mediated by the naturally arisen, spontaneous, more or less histor
ically developed and modifed presence of the individual as member
of a commune - his naturally arisen presence as member of a tribe,
etc.' And in a note at thi s point, this remark: '[The labouring
individual] thus appears from the outset not merely as labouring
individual , in this abstraction, but has an objective mode of
existence in his ownership of the land, an existence presupposed by
this activity, and not merely as a result of it, a presupposition of his
activity just like his skin, his sense organs, which of course he als o
reproduces and devel ops, etc. , i n the life process, but which are
nevertheless presuppositi ons of this process of his reproduction. '39
Therefore: (1) the body of the earth is called inotanic only so as to
be distinguished from the organic body of the worker himself; in
132 Libidinal Economy
tct it is a body organical l y bound up with the organic body and
identical to it in every way in that, like it, it is gi 1'( and not produced;
(2) the comm une itsel f is al so a part of this great (i n) organic body,
for it is as a member of this commune that the ' l abouring' body
( which does not in fact appear as such) can enter into a productive
rcl ation with the earth. And bel onging to the commune is itself al so
given and not produced. The three instances, proper body, social
body, the body of the earth, arc articulated together as so many
pi eces of the same machinery, which is natllre. I t is within this nature
that 'production' is carried out, or rather, this 'production' is nature
reproducing itself
This image is constant . Open The Germal/ Ideology and you will
tlnd this l ong text quite expl i ci t :
Here, therefore, arises the difference between natural inst ru
ments of production and those created by civilization. The feld
(water, etc . ) can be regarded as a nat ural instrument of produc
tioll. In the first case, that of the natural i nstrument of produc
tion, individual s arc subservient to nature; in the second, to a
product of l abour. I n the first case therefore, property (l anded
property) appears as direct natural domination, in the second, as
domination of l abour, particul arl y of accumul ated l abour, capi
tal . The first case presupposes that the indi viduals are united by
some bond: famil y, tribe, the l and itself etc. ; the second, that
they are independent of one another and are onl y hel d together by
exchange. I n the frst case, what is invol ved is chiefy an exchange
between men and nature in which the labour of the former is
exchanged for the products of the l atter; in the second, it is
predominantly an exchange of men amongst themsel ves . I n the
frst case, average, human common sense is adequate - physi cal
activity is as yet not separated from mental activity; in the second,
the division between physical and mental l abour must already be
practicall y completed. I n the frst case, the domination of the
proprietor over the propertyless may be based on a personal
relationship, on a kind of community; in the second, it must have
taken a material shape in the form of a third party - money. In the
first case, small industry exist s, but determined by the utilization
of the natural instrument of production and therefore without
the distribution of labour among various individual s; in the
second, industry exists only in and through the division of
labour. 40
The Desire Named Marx 133
Hardly any difference between the two texts, twelve years apart;
and if there were one, it would be to the detriment of the earlier text,
which speaks of precapitalist property as a 'domination', whereas in
1857 the great fgure of the (in)organic Body governs the whole
text, precluding every relation of domination within itself, know
ing only the effects of the immediate fulflment of a partial
function through other parts.
And one cannot dispose of this theme of lost naturality by saying
that Marx merely made use of precapitalist forms of production in
order to facilitate the concretion of their opposition to the capitalist
form and to make this latter manifest in its fuJI particularity, even if
this were at the price of sheer mythologization of the former. 41 The
alleged opposition does not exist; there is for Marx a mutation, a
revolution, as the lanifesto says, between all these precapitalist
forms and capitalism, a diJerence in the sense that in the latter alone
an opacity exists, only in the latter does society misjudge itself only
in the latter can labour, which appears precisely like everyday
reality, appear only on condition that it has become a completely
denatured abstraction, fnally, in the sense that in capitalism this
abstraction alone requires a Spa/tung, a scission not only of objects
(into commodities and use-goods; into values and needs) but also of
subjects into concrete bodies and registered labour forces. On the
other side of 'precapitalist' immediacy, this scission is, for Marx,
what must be expl ai ned: 'It is not the unity of living and active
humanity with the natural, inorganic conditions of their metabolic
exchange with nature, and hence their appropriation of nature,
which requires explanation or is the result of a historic process, but
rather the separation between these inorganic conditions of human
existence and this active existence, a separation which is completely
posited only in the relation of wage-labour and capital. '42 There is
more: this scission is not only to be explained, it causes there to be
something to be explained, for the discourse of political economy is
engendered from the vacuum or void which it opens in the social
subject: what Marx (this time, the prosecutor, however) would have
us understand in the Introduction (ofI857) to the Critique of Political
Economy, saying that of course there was labour before there were
wage earners and money before capital, but that the practice of
'labour in general', of 'labour sans phrase', is necessary, a practice,
Marx says, which is that of the American worker, that of an
indifference to the 'ob' one does, which 'became a means to create
1:4 Li bidinal Economy
wealth in general, and has ceased to be tied as an attribute to a
particular individua1'43 - that this practice of the scission proper to
capitalism is necessary in order that these practices come into their
own as categories of political economy, practices indeed 'prior' to
this scission. It is the scission which llIust be explained at the same
time as it is in and from the scission that this need for explanation
originates. One can only say that to invoke the extreme opposite of
an undivided society would be only an explanatory facility for
Marx, it governs his methodology (which is impossible, but that's
another matter), and it govers his politics, which is quite explicitly,
and constantly, to do away with thc sciss ioll and to establish the great
full common body of natural reproduction, communism.
This could not be put more clearly than in Book 1 of Capital , even
though it is introduced under a somewhat shameful guise: 'Since
Robinson Crusoe's experiences are a favourite theme with political
economists, let's take a look at him on his island. '44 There follow
four illustrations of transparency, naturality, or immediacy, four
fll1s from which 'the whole mystery of labour that surrounds the
products of labour ... ' is absent: let's miss out the lucidity of
Robinson's political economy; there is no less clarity, however, in
the obscure Middle Ages: 'But for the very reason that personal
dependence forms the ground-work of society, there is no necessity
for labour and its products to assume a fantastic form different
from their reality. They take the shape, in the transactions of
society, of services in kind and payments in kind. '45 Does this mean
that the real ity of dcsire (supposing that this consists in its ambivalence
... ) is exhibited here? Why not' Marx doesn't say this, but
ultimately the 'relations between persons' are, in Marx's eyes, as in
anyone else's, fully transferential relations, and form a truly
passionate human language. Baudrillard will object that Marx is not
concerned with transparency at all; instead he is concerned with the
unpretentious exhibition of the l aw of vallie: 'Every serf knows that
what he expends in the service of his lord, is a defnite quantity of his
own personal labour power. '46 A correction pertinent also to the
two last examples of society whose political economy is thought to
be crystal clear: the present reality of the rustic and patriarchal
industry of a family of peasants; and fnally the image of a
'community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the
means of production in common, in which the labour power of all
the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined
The Desire Named Marx 135
labour power of the community'. 47 A collective Crusoe-ism, Marx
says; is it communism nevertheless? There is no doubt that this latter
is the (re)constitution of the great organic or inorganic, transorganic
or transitive body. But the objection comes back: this transitivity is
already placed inside political economy since it only concerns
relations of labour, production and distribution. But Baudrillard's
society without an unconscious is not only a pre-bourgeois political
economy, it is a pre-political, libidinal economy, or even a pre
economy. Perhaps because in fact the frontier is moved further
forward in the fantastic archaeology, 'before' production and not
only, as it seems with Marx, before the occultation oflabour power
in capitalist relations; the re-placing of the critical line which then
accepts as a criterion not only the foreclosure of desire in capitalist
capitalized practice, but also its denial through the very circumscrip
tion of a feld of the economy. However, re-placing a frontier
allows changes in the designations of the countries situated on either
side; hence it will no longer be: capitalist economy versus precapital
ist economy, it will be: political economy or equivalence versus
symbolic exchange or ambivalence; but the system of oppositions
remains the same, the formation of distinct regions, the constitution
of a theatricality through exteriorization (of the peasant, of
Robinson, of the socialist worker, of the marginal), critique made
possible by the position of an uncritiqued ('what requires an
explanation, is not the unity of active individuals and the non
organic conditions .. . ') set up as the site from which the critic
speaks, and therefore nihilism. All of Marx rests on this nihilism.
Edwarda and Little Girl Marx
Marx in toto: the young woman and the theoretician; the young
woman who dreams of reconciliation, the end of poverty and
scission, therefore distances herself fom (capitalist) 'reality' in
order to oppose it to the (in)organic and transparent body, the young
woman who performs this movement of the disengagement and
annihilation of the given, who refuses the given and buys herself
another, a simply refused given, the given of lost transparency.
What does she refuse in the given? Prostitution. Recall the Manifsto:
the bourgeois family rests on capital, it exists only for the
bourgeoisie, 'but this state of things fnds its complement in the
practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public
Li hidi nal Ecol l omy
prostitu tion' ; t hi s i s why, i f the communi st programme was t o
i nstitute t he communi ty of women, i t woul d not have a l ot to do, i t
i s al ready the i nstitution of the bourgeoi si e: not onl y docs i t di spose
of prol etarian women and gi rl s, but ' bourgeoi s marriage i s in real i ty
a s ystem of wives in common' . Women' s communi sm merel y
di spl ayed and made expl i ci t thei r actual cl andesti ne status as
comlll on property. But, say the authors, ' i t i s sel f-evi dent that the
abol ition of the present s ystem of producti on must bri ng wi th i t the
abol ition of the communi ty of women spri ngi ng frol 11 that system,
i . e. of prosti tuti on both publ i c and pri vate' . 4H
Al ready in 1 844, Marx l ays i nto crude communi sm whi ch is onl y,
he says, a general ization of pri llate property, t he i nsti tuti on of a
species of pri l'atc or pri llat i l ' c comml / I l i t y, for wOl11 cn in particul ar.
The same position as in 1 848: the pl aci ng i n common of women i s
prostitution. But t hi s reveal s the sccret of capi tal i s m: 'J ust as woman
passes from marri age ( accordi ng to the hypothesi s of thi s crude
communi sm) to general prosti tuti on, so the enti re worl d of weal th
(that i s, of man' s objecti ve substance) , passes from the rel ati onshi p
of excl usi ve marriage wi th the owner of pri vatc propcrty to that of
universal prostitution wi th the communi t y. ' 4') This i s cl ari fed i n a
footnote: ' Prostitution is onl y the speci fc expressi on of the gcneral
prostitution of the l abourer, and since i t is a rel ati onshi p i n which
fal l s not t he prosti tute al one, but al so t he OIlC who prosti tutes - and
t he latter' s abomintiol i s st i l l greater - t he capi talist, etc. , also
comes under this head. '
What the dreaming young gi rl rej ects in capi tal ism i s prostitution
under the name of al ienated medi ation. ' Tbi i lhe habi tual vicious
circle of political economy: t he goal i s freedom of thought;
therefore for the majority i t is mi ndl ess servitude. Physical needs
arc not the only goal ; therefore for the majori ty, they are the only
goal . Or conversel y: marri age is the goal; for the maj ori ty then,
there i s prostituti on. Property i s t he goal ; for t he maj ority then, no
property at all . ' so The central and persistent theme, whose range
even extends when the opposition, marked from the start between
marriage and prosti tution, becomes a bl ur. For exampl e in 1857, in
the Gnldrisse, again in a footnote ( of course) : ' The exchangeability
of all products, activities, and rcl ations with a third, objecti ve entity
which can be reexchanged for everythi ng at all - that i s, the
development of exchange-values ( and of money relations) is
The Desire Named Marx 137
identical with universal venality, corruption. Universal prostitu
tion, or, more politely expressed, the universal relation of utility and
use, appears as a necessary phase . . . '51
What does the little girl recoil from, whatever her age? From
Madame Edwarda . Bataille said: 'No use laying it all up to irony when
I say of Madame Edwarda that she is GOD. But GO] fgured as a
public whore and gone crazy, that makes no sense at all. '52 Marx
overlooks nothing of this fatal conjunction, he cites Shakespeare, he
comments on the two properties that the author of Timon of Athens
recognizes in money: ' ( 1 ) It is the visible divinity - the transforma
tion of all human and natural qualities into their contraries, the
universal confounding and overturning of things . . . ; (2) It is the
common whore, the common pimp of peoples and nations', 53 and
he will quote this once again in Capital , in the chapter on money. In
the indifference or ' the equalization of differences' which results
from mercantilism but even more from capitalism, and which the
crude communism which Marx despises, dreads and rejects (and
which therefore he desires) will simply generalize; he says that this is
the destruction of the ' direct, natural and necessary relation of
person to person' which is primarily 'the relation of man and
woman', 54 he says that it is the denaturation of woman, therefore
the denaturation of man and nature itself And we say that this
horror of money, of the world of money which sells to buy and
huys to sell, of the world of capital as the Milieu of universal
prostitution, we say it is the horror of (and therefore the lust for) the
'perversi on' of the partial pltlsions.
What then does the system of capital present to the innocent Little
Girl Marx? No longer a body indeed, but an abstraction, no longer
the carnal ' artistic' unity, of an inside and an outside, of a hand and
its tool, of a palm and a stretch of caressed skin, of a house and the
surrounding countryside, of fatigue and its complementary rest,
but the 'body of capital', which is not an oani[ body, which seems to
her to be a body stricken with repugnant diseases, whose organs are
separated by what should assemble them, whose 'mediatory' unity is
not totalizing-immanent, but transcendent-detotalizing. The
money of capital groups incompossibles together. It is not con
stituted by a slow process of birth and growth like a living being, but
by intermittent acts of vampirization: it merely seizes hold of what
was already there, racked by dissolution, labour-force on one side,
masses of currency on another, means of labour on a third, and
J - i hidi nal Erol1 om y
reorganizes it in another way, 55 it cannot exist as an ' organic' unity,
its unity is extrinsic, like that which forms the impatient perversion
of a client, the indifference of a prostitute and the neutrality of a
procurer. Were capital to make every activity enter into its cycle of
indiffrent transformations, rendering their uses indiscernible, for
Marx it would be just as though sexuality, having l ost its anchoring,
its tnality and its justifcation in genitality and reproduction, were to
dis connect itself from the infamy of the partial pulsions. Instead of
amorous sensibility, sensuality in senselessness [ 1l 01l-sens] . Instead of
the natural and immediate order, perhaps madness. ' She was seated,
she held one leg up in the air, to open the crack yet wider she used
tl ngers to draw the folds of her skin apart. And so Madame
Edwarda's "old rag and ruin" loured at me, hairy and pink, just as
ful l of life as some loathsome squid. "Why", I stammered quietly,
" why arc you doing that?" "You can sec for yourself', she said, "I
am GOD . . . ", ' ' I'm going crazy-", "Oh no you don' t, you've got
to sec, l ook . . . "'5()
Edwarda's exposed vulva, her fainting fit in the street (for, as a
brothel woman, she C nevertheless ' leave' , just like the wage
carer, who is not a slave) , her hatred for her client (' " I can't stand it
any more", she shril l ed, "but you, you fake priest. I shit on you! ''') ,
her return in a taxi, copulating with some driver culminating in a
gushing, bruising orgasm - this is what capital promises male and
female lovers of organic bodies and affective harmonies. Capital is
not the denaturation of relations between man and man, nor
between man and woman, it is the wavering of the (imaginary?)
primacy of genitality, of reproduction and sexual difference, it is
the displacement of what was in pl ace, it is the unbinding of the
most insane pulsions, since money is the sole justifcation or bond,
and money being able to justify anything, it deresponsibilizes and
raves absolutely, it is the sophistics of the passions and at the same
time, their energetic prosthetics; and if the ' unity' which it wants to
apply to the social body so frightens Marx, it is because it has certain
anti-unitary and anti-totalizing traits, amongst which the great
libidinal skin may be discerned.
It is the discovery of this latter, at least the beginnings of its
emergence in the cold waters of capital, which makes the young
lover recoil. What is there left to love in this society, with what can
olle strike up a natural, immediate, impassioned relationship so dear
to pure hearts? The task set Marx the Advocate by Little Girl Marx is
The Desire Named Marx 139
to discover an object of love, a hidden priceless thing, forgotten in
the subversion of prices, a beyond-value in the trade fair of values,
something like a nature in denaturation. To rediscover a natural
dependence, a We, a dialectic of the You and the I, in the sordid
solitude of pornographic independence to which the capitalist
function of money and labour condemns all affective expenditure.
If it is true that prostitution is the model of the relationship in
capitalist society, then two things follow: the frst is well known, all
relations are mediated and folded back onto the Milieu of the pimp
capitalists; but the second, concealed in the frst, is, from the point of
view ofthe consideration ofan organic body, the disappearance of this
latter, its replacement by series of singular, anonymous and
indifferent relations (but only from this point of view) , between
clients and prostitutes. The group of client bodies does not form an
organic body, and neither do the prostitute bodies. It is only the
collectivity of capitalist procurers that forms a body, a clandestine
body, a major state, and it is only in the instantiation of the pulsions,
of all the pulsions, on their centre of power, that there must be a sort
of collective existence of clients and prostitutes, consumers and
producers. The 'disappearance' of the organic body is the accusa
tion, in sum, made by Marx and Baudrillard (but this goes further,
in both senses) , by which the dispositi of capital stands condemned.
But, far from this rejection setting us clear on the libidinal
function, or the libidinal functions, relative to each economic 'post'
of capital, it maintains on the contrary, in the form of a denial prior
to all analysis, the idea that capitalism deprives us of intensities as
affects. This denial is indeed what introduces political economy and
semiotics as separate 'sciences' , that is to say absurd and blind to their
presuppositions, but it is also what continues to underlie the critique
of these 'sciences' ; and if Marx, who wanted to do this critique,
couldn' t avoid the nihilism of this denial, it is not by way of an
error, it is because his whole critique draws its impetus from the
following denial: no, you cannot make me come. Baudrillard remains
no less in this line when he adds: you can only make me enjoy
perversely, by placing me beyond ambivalence, by denying bisex
uality and castration. For we do not see why this limitation would be
proper to capital. We can clearly see, for example, what modes of
jouissance are excluded from the circumference of Hellenic
homosexuality, or from the hierarchical organization of medieval
guilds. On the other hand, in the immense and vicious circuit of
1 40 Libidinal Economy
capi tal i st exchanges, whet her of commodi ti es or servi ces ' , i t
appears that all t he modal i tics o(jouissancc ar e possi bl e and t hat none i s
ostracized. On t hese circui t s, i t i s j ust as much a pi ece of the l i bi di nal
band whi ch becomes cl ear i n its ephemeral and anonymous
pol ymorphi s m.
Now, therefore, we must compl etel y abandon cri ti que, i n the
sense that we must put a stop to the cri ti que of capi tal , stop accusi ng
i t of l i bi di nal col dness or pul si onal monoval ence, stop accusi ng i t of
not bei ng an organi c body, of not bei ng a natural i mmedi ate rel ati on
of the terms that i t bri ngs i nto pl ay, we must take note of, exami ne,
exal t t he i ncredi bl e, unspeakabl e pul si onal possi bi l i ti es that it sets
rol l i ng, and so understand that there has tl eller beell an organi c body,
an i mmediate relation, nor a nat ure i n the sense of an cstabl ishcd si t c (f
afl'cts, and that the ( i n) organi c body is a representati on on the stage
of the theatre of capi tal i tsel f. Let ' s repl ace the term cri ti que by an
atti tude cl oser to what we effecti vel y experi ence i n our current
rel ati ons wi th capi tal , i n the offce, i n the street, i n the ci nema, on
the roads, on hol i day, i n the mus eums , hospi tal s and l i brari es, that i s
to say a horrifed fasci nati on for the enti re range of the disposi t!fs of
jouissance. I t must be sai d: the Li t t l e Gi rl Marx i nvents cri ti que ( wi th
her fat bearded prosecutor) it ! order to deCtld herself from thi s
horrifed fascinati on, whi ch the di sorder of the pul si ons al so
provokes in us.
Of course, prosti tuti on is sti l l an order, a separati on and a
di stributi on of pul si onal movements onto distinct pol es, each of
which ful fl s a defnite functi on i n the ci rcul ati on of goods and
jouissances. But intensities are l odged here no l ess than i n every
possible network. Madame Edwarda is not only a prostitute i n this
sense of order, which authorizes a semiotics and a sociology of
prostitution; she is al so a madwoman. What does her madness stem
from? From excessively enj oying her profession. The rul e of
col dness i s not respected: it i s on the contrary the deregul ati on from
frenzy and orgasm t hat she dares t o obtain under cover of her job.
Not t he disj unction between what bel ongs to t he (hypothetical )
l over and what belongs t o the client ; but the disjunctive bar turing on
the disjunctive function itsel intensity being produced without any
reference to an outside, but by heati ng to white-hot the operator ofthis
exteriorization. The taxi driver will have shot his l oad as if it had been
j ust another l ay; but he wi l l have pai d nothing, his vehicle will have
served as a hotel bedroom, he had asked for nothing, and fnally i t i s
1 42 Libidinal Economy
oneself equally to all those who desire to do so, women must equally
have the liberty to enjoy all those they deem worthy to sati sfy
them' . 57 Madame Edwarda is in the process of transforming the
brothel where the group earns its living into one of these democratic
houses of pleasure, a place where intensities emerge within political
isonomy. And Marx, both the little girl and the old man, horrifed,
discerns how one inequality dissimulates the other, how venal
equivalence encourages , while concealing it, the exchange of
pleasures , and soon equal rights to jouissance, which is its l i mitless
wandering. One equality is order; and the other, which is the same,
but without the pimp and money, i s the subversion of thi s order.
Subversion by condensation: the girl is her own procurer, the
worker his own boss. But above all the jouissatlce of fucking or
labouring i s not instantiated on an absence, the Milieu, Capital. The
end of alienation?
It is perhaps nothing of the sort, Sade also sees in his strange
institution of debauchery a factor of order, which is political. The
circle of instantiations and accountancy is reconstituted, al ongside
the economic circuits , on the political circle. They will say:
recuperation; certainly not; intensities never circulate as such, onl y as
dissimulated; for want of doing this in venal equivalence they wil l
therefore be dissi mulated in Republican equality. This displ ace
ment, ifit spread as Sade hoped, would indeed be a displacement, in
no way a defeat ofliberties, or rather oflibidinalities, and Marx was
not fooled by thi s. I n capitalist prostitution, he denounces depravity;
but what is exposed here, i s polymorphous perversion without a
master, the madness of Edward a' s ' faps' opened by her own hands ;
madness and hazard and anonymity, since, as in masturbation,
hands feeling for the nippl es, the clitoris , the thin line on the glans,
belonging neither to me nor anyone else, and since the erection and
detumescence they produce is due to neither women' s nor men' s
hands, is not their product, they are inassignable tensions .
Or as in this i mage of coupling: squatting on haunches , s od
omized so that hairs mingle, left breast lodged in the bend of the left
arm, the right in the hollow of the left palm, right nipple stiff and
erect between the left thumb and index fnger, head fallen back onto
the left shoulder, mouth wide open, the gaping refuge probed by
three bent middle fngers , the tongue and palate moistened by the
liquids drawn from them. There remain two hands, four feet,
breaths, the interface of sweat covering the back to torso contact .
. What belongs to whom?
Thc Dcsi rc Naill I'd !arx 1 4 1
i nsani ty he hel d and penet rated, and not neut ral venal fl esh. Edwarda
t he prosti tu t ejoureys beyond every pi mp' s organi zati on, but i n t he
SJme pl ace, on the same t errai n a s t hi s organi zat i on, by t he very flct
of her venal posi ti on as a body-commodi t y.
I t i s cert ai n t hat her frenzy, s na tched frol ll t he di sj unct i ve bar,
frolll what demarcates al l passi on bet ween cl i ents and courtesans,
goes hand i n hand wi t h another characteri st i c sketched by Bat ai l l e,
her autonomy wi t hi n t he prost i t ut i ve organi zati on . I f t he prost i t ut e
i s her own mi stress , i f s he offers hersel f wi t hout even tbe excuse of
t he procurers' wi ckedness, i f Jesus cl i mbs onto t he cross wi t hout
havi ng been i nvi ted t here by hi s fat her, i f then t here i s no-one to
wl/ca the pri ce ofjoll issall (c-sufri ng, I am not s ayi ng that al l woul d
become cl ear, but that ul ti matel y t he vei l of i nt ent i ons whos e
i ntensi ti es arc di ss i mul ated by t he organi zat i on woul d cl ear a l i t t l e,
whet her this organi zat i on i s t he t rade i n women or t he organi zati on
of l abour and its market , and reveal t hat i t t akes very l i t t l e, even
wi thi n the order of prost i t utes and wage earers, to arouse
Edwarda' s l unacy anywhere ( as Chapl i n had shoWJ l i n ;odcYl 1
Til ll l'S : the ski l l ed worker becomes a ki nd of ili ad god whCl l hi s body
l ets go of thejol l issall (c that he recei ves from machi nes, and whi ch he
transfers onto them): this mi nor requi rement i s the dest ruction of
t he ci rcl e of reference, of the Milicl I, and of the divine trianglc, that
is, of capital as the site of the accounts. This docs not mean that the
law, the disjunction separatin,Q the woman from her client would
disappear, on the contrary it remains an impassable bar (which will
always be able to give rise to the return of power, to the retur of the
accountable, to the semio1 0gist), but it is 011 this bar andfrolll this bar
(hat extreme jouissancc wIll result, and this extreme jOUiSStl (C is
indeed an intensity in that i t embraces not only the clientele, but also
the staff, not only the client, but also the woman - so that outlined
here, in lIadness, is the suppression of religion (whether gentle Jesus,
the strict pimp or whatever capitalism).
Wasn' t this what Sack planned in his profundly ecalitarial1
institutions of pleasure, and this equality is quite different to that
which capital takes into account and devours in the petty fear of its
equations, an equality of the availability to enjoy, not through
property (this is capital), but throughjouissance or even the 'right of
possession overjolissance' , as Sade says? In these Republi can houses
of debauchery, not only do 'all men have an equal right to jouissmlce
over all women', but, 'under the special clause of abandoning
The Desire Named Marx 1 43
Or in this image of separation: under their nails, they carry
particles of skin gathered from tracks scratched onto the ridge of
the hips, the spreadeagled arms, the base of the neck and the small of
the back. This is not two identities disjoining from each other in the
separation, two bodies each owned by a separate identity. The bar of
division unpredictably crosses the fields of sight, touch, smell and
hearing; the skin's texture 'belongs' just as much to the tongues that
have loved i t or hated it, not only to the alleged body which it
envelops. Parts get inextricably tangled up with regard to the order
of 'this is yours, that is mine'.
This order is the order of capital, but this disorder is the disorder
of capital. Order counts and produces its writings, disorder is
multiplied in these accounts, sending shock-waves through it. The
fgure of Madame Edwarda is repeated in that of the masturbator
writer, a superbly capi talist dispositij 'On refection' , says Guyotat,
'what spectacle is more brutally exciting than that of a child wanking
with his left hand, in this system, and writing with his right . In the
resultant disarray, there must be seen one of the terms of this
contradictory pulsional will, being at the same time seen and voyeur
("seeing") , pimp and whore, buyer and bought, fucker and
fucked. '58 Now, what did Marx the prosecutor's lef hand do while
he was writing Capital?
The critique of political economy is therefore instantiated on the
(in) organic body; it is this beautiful body of reconciled genitality
that allows the characterization and rejection of capitalism and wage
earners as arising out of prostitution. The whole 'critique' is
articulated in the following simple statements: proft hides surplus
value, surplus-value issues from the occultation of the use-value of
the force of labour by its exchange-value; that is: from the
occultation of its substantial, superabundant force by its property
of being an exchangeable, suffcient, commodity; capitalism must
also be mistaken about the origin of its growth, and this mistake is
fatal to it.
Is this the dissimulation of force [uissance] in order? No. Is it the
same thing that we wanted to show in signs; the sensible sign, that of
exchange-value, dissimulating the tensor sign which would then
have to be confused with use-value; and the reverse? Not the
1 44 Li bidinal Ewnomy
s l i ghtest chance. Use-val ue bel ongs to the system of sensi bl e si gns
j ust l i ke exchange-val ue, i t i s not exteral to i t . That thi s i s s o, i s
neverthel ess what Marx says, wi th speci fc reference to the use
val ue of lahouy foyce. For i ts exteri ori t y, i ts heterogenei t y i s
responsi bl e, he thi nks, and sol el y responsi bl e, for the i ntroducti on
of events i nto the system: i f capi tal i s threatened, thi nks the
prosecutor, i t i s because it cannot , at the s ame t i me, reduce worki ng
t i me to a mi ni mum ( f) and conti nue to reap a proft from the
expl oi tati on of thi s force, the growth of the organi c composi ti on
c fl ceaselessl y l oweri ng the rate of proft and the i ncenti ve to i nvest.
Capi tal captures force and t urs i t i nto a means of soci al l abour,
countabl e as ti me regul ated by the dock: it ' bi nds' force.
One coul d bri ng out a sort of homol ogy between thi s schema and
Freud' s : somethi ng undermi nes the ' ps ychi c apparat us' or capi tal
i s m, an exci tati on whi ch proceeds from the pul si onal ' X' or fom
f) rce, and i n rel ati on to whi ch the ' apparatus' or the system reacts
not onl y by hi l l di l lg the di sru pt i ve effects that resul t from the
i ntroduction of thi s force i nto a ci rcui t of regul ated tensi on, but by
modi fyi ng, and in particul ar by hei ghteni ng, t he capaci t y of the
tensi on regul ator, without which the s ystem cracks up. Thi s i s
because capi tal for the procurer consi sts at l east i n a turi ng-away of
funds, i n the capture of force and the putti ng into ci rcul ati on,
regul ated by the l aw of val ue and under the form of accumul ated
l abour or ' death' . Li vi ng force i s the pul si onal source of the event,
capi tal i s its death as i ts bi nding. Nevertheless Freud di stri buted
these roles in the opposi te way: what produces the event in the
s ys tem i s the death dri ve, the Eros of l i fe i s what produces the
s ys tem.
Of course, thi s inversion of signs enabl es us to discover an
' opti mi s m' in Marx and a ' pessimism' in Freud. But thi s, in its turn,
conceals the essential since the Marxist dialectic is ful fl l ed entirely
within the interplay of force and syst em, the action, as indirect as
one could wi sh, of the former on the l atter i s what carries i t to i ts
point of rupture. With Freud on the other hand, the opposition
between the lethal pulsions and the erotic organization is neither
di al ecticized nor dialectici zabl e ( subj ect to an action of the cure) ; of
course the l atter bi nds the former and, in a sense, ' benefts' from i t
( the famous ' secondary beneft ' ) , but t he former are not external t o
t he regulated apparatus , they rather inhabit i t, and t hi s unthinkable
cohabitation of the regul ator and deregulation in the same signs is
The Desire Named Marx 145
properly the dissimulation or dissimilation through which every
intense sign appears as a coded sign, and some coded (hut inassign
able) sign conceals an intensity. Even if Freud himself gets this
wrong, for example, interpreting the death drives as aggression in
Civilization and its Discontents, therefore reestablishing a sort of
pulsional hinarism, it remains that his invention of 1920 gives rise to
a dissimulatory monism: there is no equivalent in Marx, too much
of a Christian for that.
One first entirely decidable ' effect' (and it is ' original') for this
androgynous Marx, is the spl ittil of force into living force and
dead force. Living force gives more than it takes, consumes less
than it produces, a little meta-economic miracle of the extravagant
gift which would be the forgotten origin of all wealth creation.
What is killed in reproduction is this absolute, improbable,
negentropic excess. It is a matter of the true origin of capital, the
immutable event which always underlies the process of growing
accumulation and which must give rise to its death sentence. The
force of labour, conceived in this way, a force which 5ivts out more
than it expends, fully satisfies the petition formulated hy Bataille for
expenditure and consumption. What is this frce, if not the return
to ' critique' of an element indispensable to the model of the
sovereign gift? Force consumes itself and it is this very consumption
which enables the accumulation of capital. Such a model is set up
against that of exchange. You helieve that there is exchange, says the
Little Girl Marx, but under all exchanges of equal value there is an
original gift, an irreversihle rclation of inequality, making all
equalities and equalizations illusory. Labour-force is exorbi tant, or at
least beyond value, inasmuch as the origin of surplus-value escapes
the whole system of valuations at the same time as it renders this
possible. With the result that this is not even ageneral wrong done to
it, but a meta-wrong, a wrong which is not economic but ontological.
Between the value that this force comes to add to those of the means
of production employed, and its ' true' usc-value, the split is
inestimable. That does not mean that they cannot be fixed, which in
fact takes place through the continual discussions, dialogues and
disputes which surround the definition of salaries and conditions of
labour. But, if the cost of force in its dona tory function can only be
arbitrarily established with regard to what is worked out for other
commodities, it is because it is not an object, because it remains
beyond falle, and this is why this price may be fxed only in an extra-
1 46 Li hidinal Economy
economi c cont ext , beyond the val ue system, i n t he context of cl ass
st ruggl e. Wherever force escapes the economi c approach, for
i ns tance: in its ori gi nary functi on, i s where, what' s more, i t is
troubl e and disorder, and to eval uate i t necessitates that one resort to
conficts or i nsti tuti ons of di al ogue, whi ch woul d no l onger appear
to a rise from the regul ated body of capi tal , but from the di sparate,
ull certain, equi vocal , troubl ed socio-pol i ti cal body. The transcen
dence of the system by force i s marked therefre in the referral of
its definition from the fiel d of reproduction to that of struggl es .
Prostitutes getting organized to fght the domination of the
pi mps . The ' pol i tical ' consequence fl l ows smoothl y, i n t he Marx
i st ' s eyes : i f i t i s to obtain a better percentage on rates per l ay, one
remains within the denat uration of force, one i s i nscribed into the
s ystem, confning l abour-force in its entirety within it, conse
quently comparabl e to a commodi ty. In thi s way economism wi l l be
denounced in the Leni ni st cri tique of union demands . The good
fght aims on the contrary to emancipate the venal bodies from the
bargai ni ng of thei r al l eged procurers ( when i t i s the former who
s upport the l atter) and to reestabl i sh everywhere the magnifcent
transcendence of the Olt who
i ves (force) , which masks the infamy
of the One who recei ves ( capi tal ) . The hope of the young pol itical
woman i s si mpl y that the prosti tutes become fertile virgins once
more, members of a pure (in) organic body which they form in
real i t y. And their gift should be distributed amongst them, in
proportion, in short, to their respective needs, exactl y as is the case,
Marx thinks, amongst the organs of a heal thy organic body. Capi tal
or prostitution, disease of a soci al body, one part absorbing the
forces of the whol e, altering the rel ati on of the given and the taken,
reversing the relation of the donor and the donee, the ' boss'
appearing to provide l abour and sustenance when it i s the worker
who enigmatical l y provides the surpl us of force; thi s l atter in its
rage turned back into the sel f-styl ed ' wi sdom' of t he concerted
regulation of jobs, sal aries , prices . The emotions of hate or despair
which may seize lefti st mil itants or the most infuriated workers
when they see the ' prol etari at ' accept , after renegotiating, the rates
for its prostitution, do not of course have economic motives , as in
fact the leaders of companies, unions and parties (al l good pimps) ,
compl ain, they nourish themsel ves on the passion for an elsewhere,
for an organic body hidden beneath the abstract body of capital , for
a force l odged underneath or outside power rel ations .
Te Desire Named .arx 1 47
Now, this idea of a transcendent exteriority of force to the
system, which would be at the origin of surplus-value and therefore
of profit, would appear to be dangerously threatened by the actual
state of capitalist production. Marx himself knows this, as a text
from the Grundrisse testifes, 59 where he states clearly that the
individual labour-force in its immediate use ceases to be the source of
wealth in proportion to the development of large industry, in
proportion, therefore, to the fact that 'the totality of knowledge
becomes an immediate productive force'. A remark which, on this
decisive point of the accusation that the prosecutor is charged to
bring against capital, to ascertain the exploitation, or, as he says here,
'the theft of working time from labour of the other, the present
basis of wealth', cannot but make Little Girl Marx despair. For thi s
basis is only present, and although the poor for a long time may
hope to reap vengeance for this theft by a reversal (by a revolution)
which would fnally allow labour-force to be recognized in its
unalienated transcendence, it is the very development of capitalism
that sticks them away ' in the margins (neben) of the production
process, of which they were previously the principal agent'. Thus,
more overworking as a condition of the development of wealth in
general; more need for the extravagant generosity of a force to
ensure growth.
It is true that Marx, worried, soon substitutes another 'master
pillar of the production of wealth', 'the social individual', that is,
'the intelligence and mastery of nature by the whole of society', for
this poor, marginalized subject. How can we understand this social
individual? Is it a society become the subject of production in its
totality? Is it a group of individuals by which, incredibly, socializa
tion, that is 'the artistic, scientific, etc. , development of every
individual' thanks to the reduction of working time to a minimum
and to the extension of its leisure time, will be increased? The
formulations of the wise prosecutor belong to this hesitant subject;
hut this hesitation is not important here; what is important is that
Marx, placed befre the perspective of a production without the
exploitation of the immediate labour-fdce and therefore without a
proletariat, still sees in it the promise of a labour-force, an
anonymous and triumphant labour-force, however: 'Man's appro
priation of his own universal productive labour-force', such is the
new social subject, conscious, knowing and able. Is it still the same
unifed body craved by the love of little genital Rhenane? No, it is no
1 4H Li hidill al EWll omy
l on ger an organi c body, it i s a feshl ess body, a machi ni c body
ubcyi ng ;I n i l l l mcnse head. Machi nes ' ayc tiz e ill strlll Cl l tS oftie human
hraill m'il ll'd hy hUll/ ali hal l ds; they arc the materi al ized force of
knowl edge' . (,( )
Now, wi l l this body be soci al i st or capi tal i st ? Marx writes : ' Wi th
t hat , production based on exchange-val ue breaks down . ' And
l l I ore strongl y: ' Capi tal cal l s to l i fe al l the powers of sci ence and of
na ture, as of social combi nati on and soci al i ntercourse, i n order t o
make the creation of weal th i ndependent (rel ati vel y) of the l abour
t i me empl oyed on it . . . I These] arc the materi al condi ti ons to bl ow
th is foundation sky-hi gh. ' (" Wh Y thi s bl owi ng sky-high Because
capi t al ' wants to usc l abour-ti me as the measuri ng rod for the gi ant
soci al forces thereby created, and to confne them wi thi n the l i mi t s
required to mai ntai n t he al ready created val ue as val ue' . And such i s
the ' movi ng contradicti on' : ' To reduce l abour-ti me t o a mi ni mum,
whil e i t posi ts l abour-ti me , . . as s ol e source a nd measure of
weal th . ' (. ] So my friends, i f capi tal mus t bur s t , it i s from counti ng
al l weal th in tlfIll S of worki ng ti me, i t i s because the standard and
the basi s of val ue i s and remai ns l abour-force measured in hours and
l l I inutes . But who says thi s? The basi s of val ue, meanwhile, i s not
capi t al , which docs not want to and cannot know i ts ori gi n, but the
bearded, bi tter prosecutor of i ts causes; thi s ' contradiction' i s only as
mortal as the depth of hi s hatred, of course.
As for the measure of val ues , the capi tal i st has hi s answer ready:
we do not count in working ti me, we take any uni t whatever capablc
of ensuri ng a minimum of consi stency i n the facts i n our system
(which i s production for producti on' s s ake) ; s uch that the machi ni c
body crowned with a huge abstract head, whi ch we call the soci al
subject and the universal producti ve force of man, i s nothing other
than the body of modern capi tal . The knowledge here in play i s not
at all made by al l i ndi vi dual s , i t i s separate, a moment i n the
metamorphosis of capital, obeying i t as much as governing it. And
today' s salaries, the defender of the bourgeoi s masters and
bureaucrats will continue, don' t they contain i ndi sti nctly the pri ce
of the selling of l abour ti me and a fracti on of the redistributed
surplus? And the formati on of addi ti onal capi tal , you are well aware
that it has become i mpossi bl e l egi ti mately to i mpute to i t the
metaphysical difference between the use-val ue and the exchange
value of an alleged l abour-force, a di fference which alone woul d be
at the origin of surplus-val ue; but what i f i n general i t would requi re
The Dcsire Named ]arx 149
simply an inequality or a difference of potential somewhere in the
system, a difference which nurks its frame at the same time as it
attests that this system could not be isolated, what i f it must
ceaselessly draw from new reserves of energy in order t o transform
them illto more commodities. Perhaps it ' had to' draw initially on
human energy, but this is not essential to i t, and it can survive
exploitation quite well, i n the sense that you, the prosecutor for the
poor, understand it, and requires, like every other complex natural
system, only an irreversible superiority in its metabolic relation with
the bio-physico-chemical context fom which it draws its energy.
Hence i t s exteriority, which is not at all transcendent, but simply
natural . Do you not say yourself, prosecutor: ' Intelli gence and
mastery of nature by the whole of society?' What is this nature,
prosecutor? An ' obj ect' as opposed to a productive social ' subject ' ; or
the (natural) context from which an equally natural system draws its
energy? And if this is the case, where is the guilt?
If the system of capital is, when all ' s said and done, natural, and
Marx himself is not far from admitting this in many confessions, a
supreme betrayal of the cause which he is supposed to defend, 63 a
great many oppositions, s temming from the desire to cleave the
givens , ought to coll apse. It would be opportune enough, for
example, to ruin the opposition of ' fxed needs ' versus artifcial
needs; 64 let us be content to draw out the consequences of the
elimination of the couple-value versus use-value.
To determine the former seems to require only two things: the
defnition of a standard of quantifcation applicable to all com
modities entering into production, and rules of proportionality for
the redistribution of products in diverse branches of production.
This is how Piero Sraffa understands it when, pos tulating a
regulated body of capital in a selfreplicating state [en boucle j, he
constructs what he calls a commodity standard as a composite entity
formed from n branches of production redistributing the totality of
their n branches according to a law of proportionality which will
all ow the previous distribution of products to be reestablished, and
production t o start agai n according to the same methods.
Take a body of production composed of two branches or
enterprises, one ( W) producing wheat, the other (I) produci ng iron;
I SO Libidinal Ewnomy
al l the wheat produced by W must be redi stri buted between Wand 1
as s ubsistence means and means of production ( suppl yi ng the
workers) ; the same for i ron. Val ue, Sraffa says, will be the
proportion ill whi ch x hundredwei ght of wheat is exchanged for y
tOilS of iron in such a way that each is completel y redi stributed
between W and 1 as they were at the beginni ng. Take, for exampl e,
the fol l owi ng system of producti on organized i nto two branches :
(W) 2HO CUll of wheat + 1 2 I of i ron - 40() CUll of wheat
(I) 1 20 CUlt of wheat + H I of iron - 20 (lvt of iron
There i s onl y one v,l i ue of the rel ati on iron/wheat whi ch al l ows
homogeneous reproduction, here 1 / 10 . I n fact W empl oys 280 (Ull
of wheat for its reproducti on per 40() products; it sel l s the
di frence to I, that i s, 1 20 fUll, requi red by 1 for i ts reproducti on.
Conversel y, 1 wi l l sel l W ( 20 - H) = 1 2 I of i ron, whi ch W empl oys
for i ts reproducti on. Therefore, on condi ti on that 1 20 (wI of wheat
i s exchanged for 12 I of i ron, the composi tions of means of
production for the two branches wi l l be t hus reconstituted i n their
i ni ti al state. Value, says Sraf, i s therefore the equal relation of 1 0
(Ull of wheat t o 1 t of i ron.
I t is indeed a question here of a standard measure, for ' there i s a
uni que set of exchange-val ues whi ch if adopted by the market
restores the original distributi on of the productions and makes it
possible for the process to be repeated . . . '(5 The commodi ty
s tandard or system standard wi l l be, i n a compl ex group, thi s single
set of exchange-val ues all owing the return of the body of produc
ti on to its original proportions. ' From such val ues ' , Sraffa adds ,
' methods of production fow directl y' , a formul a aimed, of course,
at neo-marginalism and al l theories of val ue based on demand and
subj ective utilities ; but which no less affects Marxism and the
theory of value based on quantity of work. For such a calcul ati on
completel y excludes the distinction between the ' phenomenal form'
and the substantive real i ty of val ue, a distinction which, by contrast,
is indispensable to the Marxist doctrine. 66 With Sraffa, we abandon
cleavage and theatricality. And this is because this anchoring in a
pres ystemic exteriority is abandoned, a role pl ayed by force in
Marx' s economic critique, and by the (in) organic body in his
phil osophical approach.
The Desire Named Marx 1 5 1
Sraffa starts with the facts, a s does Marx, but not the same facts :
Marx' s fact is and remains, from one end to the other of the
romantic prosecutor' s career, the alienation of property, of capital,
from labour, which is not therefore a primary fact, but s omething
which makes reference to a s till more archaic and hidden ' fact ' , the
lost instantiation of labour and needs, through an i mmediate
mediation, in a social nature or a natural society: a nihilist fact giving
cause for interpretati on. Sraffa' s fact is the system of capital as the
producer and consumer of commodities: a positivi st fact, t o be
constructed. Here there is no authentic point of origin, nor is there
any derealizing fnishing point; there is closure, commodities trans
formed into other commodities , and salaries as proft are taken as
variables, dependent on one another of course (proft = 1 - salary) ,
but as observable givens , which have no need to be explained or
interpreted; what must be explained, that i s to say constructed, on
the other hand, is how, wi th the ' methods of production' (quite
clos e to ' organic compositions' ) differing according to the
branches, the system can nevertheless maintain itsclfin equilibrium,
that i s to say remain a system. Value is simply the s et of t he rules of
transformation for al l commodity-products into commodity
goods of production. The entire system of these transformations
can be taken as a unit ( = 1 ) , and the exchange-value of each
commodity will be expressible in terms of this ' composite com
modity standard' , that is to say in an absol utely closed manner; a
closure then at the level of the system of branches: 'The exchange
ratio (of a basic product67) depends as much on the use that is made
of i t in the production of other basic commodities as on the extent to
which these commodities enter its own production. ' And at the level
of each branch, there is a feedback [boucle] : ' In the case of a basic
product the prices of its means of production depends on its own
price no less than the latter depends on them. ' (R
Such feedback notably implies that, in order to determine the
value of a commodity, one does not analytically take into considera
tion a quantity of substance included in it (labour-force, for
example) , but its exchangeability as an amount (that is, the relation
of its quantity with that of its means of production) ; and
downstream (the relation of its quantity with that of all the
commodities that i t puts into its production) . It is only wi thin the
entire set of circuits (at least of basic products) that value can be
read; it is clearly read there, not by a return to source, but by the
1 52 Libidinal ECMl Omy
cOl l struction of a totalizing theoretical model and by a setting-out of
the givens. The meta-economic opposition of usc-value and
exchange-value, or rather of usc-value and value as such, com
pletely disappears here: there arc only usc-exchange-values, prices in
mutual interdependence, or the quantitative relations of
com III odities.
What, whCI all's said and dOl le, arc we dealing with in Sraffa's
approach? Stri ctly speaking, with a theoretical discourse, expelling
from i t self evcry recourse to an exteriority and to a dialectic of the
reversal of economic reality, putting only disparities regulated by
the laws of transformation into play between terms none of which
has a referential privilege, on the contrary, any commodity at all
fr0111 the system may be taken as the standard, and the composite
commodity just described being, in the theoreti cal model, only the
most saturated equi valence of what effectively regulates exchanges
in the domain of rdrence or the empirical systel11 . This is a type of
di scourse an;dogous in every way to the olle which Saussure
elaborated t<)r language, the same epistemological bias (in linguis
ti cs , langue rather than parole, in economics, the system of
commodities rather than of subjects or goods) , and has therefore the
same cOll cept of value as rcglllatcd rierral , replacing that of
si gnifcation-designation. A fully syntactical perspective.
Compared to Sraffa, Marx's attempt and failure to make the
system (and his book on the system . . . ) self-replicating can only
appear illegitimate, whatever the Althusserians may say: what
prevents Marx from making a ' scientifc' description, is that he must
fulfl the function of the prosecutor assigned him by his desire for
an integration of goods, means and persons into a singie body, his
desire for harmonious genitality. Sraffa's 'body' is as elusive as the
body of capital, commodities are themselves only evident there as
the limits of an endless metamorphosis; which suggests the con
gruence of capital' s operation with that of a theoretical system. It
follows, of course, from such an approach that every catastrophic
perspecti ve is excluded: the death of capital cannot core to it from
within, from some contradiction, there is no contradiction, there are
at most disequilibrium states, there is no death through disruption.
In the vocabulary of Little Girl Marx, Sraffa defnes the proper
feld and the strategy of the group of great procurers: an econo
mist' s ideology concealed under cover of the harsh prostitution of
people and things in the pimps' interests. Is this what we are saying?
The Desire Named Marx 153
I n Baudrillard' s terminol ogy, the accusation brought against fetish
ism completes this structuration: the occultation of castration and
ambivalence in the position of the anonymity of neutral goods. We
are not even saying this . We say: here is a structural syntax of the
language spoken by commodity exchanges; it is, so it seems , one of
the strictest of its kind (but we are not economists enough t o make a
judgement on this . . . ) . Does it leave something outside itself Do
we reproach it, as S. Latouche does , 69 for confusing the hetero
geneity of the commodity force of labour with every other
commodity? This would be to retrace our steps, to seek an
exteriority once again, a substance, t o continue theology (whether
humanist or atheist) . On the contrary, we love the coldness of the
system and its absolute l ack of eloquence : the hody of capital speaks
only, in a sense, as ratio, banknotes and accounts, tautology.
If anything fl aws Sraffa' s description i n this regard, it is the same
thing that underlies it, the libidinal instantiation on this ratio, the
incandescence ohtained by the segmentation of the continuum
called the ephemeral skin and tautologically interchanging the
resultant segments, and ultimately: enjoying lai u(, that is to say
postponement and its algebraic cancellation. Theoretical discourse is
no less jouissive than any other; what it enj oys is situated in this same
coldness of the model which it constructed, and which, ex hypothesi,
is a model of equil i bri um (static or dynamic) , that is the estimated
maximal binding in the obj ect of which it speaks, but primarily
obtained in fact through its s trict arrangement as discourse. Speech
without viscosity, fastened to itself by the nuts and bolts of an
infallible axiomatic, tending therefore towards an immobilized or
immobilizing body of language, a hody which could be for ever
debated as to whether it is death or life, this heing undecidable.
But even this assessment of the positivistic discourse of closure
remains somewhat imperfect from the libidinal point of view. The
instantiation of desire on the tautology is far from being the most
important of the formations of desire in the capitalist dispositi
There is the strange operation which Marx calls increased accumula
tion, and which poses the problem of s o-called growth for
economists. The diffculties it presents to economic theory in its
tautology would appear to be exactly those that can bring about the
presence of a surplus of value in a homeostatically regulated system.
How can a system obtain, at the end of a cycle, more than i t
consumed during t he production process? Basically, t he answer to
1 54 Libidinal Economy
t hi s questi on has al ways been of the type: the system i s not isolated, i t
deducts or receives energetic suppl ements outside i tsel f, which i t
transforms, integrates i nto i ts circuits , and which sti l l al l ow i t
therea fter to retain its specifci t y. The physi ocrats cal l thi s exteri
ority nature, Marx cal l s it l abour-force, many Marxi sts or Keyne
si ans cal l it the thi rd worl d or unequal exchange. 71 1 But in any case
the concept of a bordcrlill c must be i ntroduced, putting the tautol ogi
cal system in contact wi th an ext eral res erve of energies which can
be drawn on.
A dispositif of conquest, and therefore of a voyage beyond the
rul es of tautol ogy, whi ch must not be i magined as the obvi ous
outsides of mi l i tary or commerci al i mperi al i sm, but much more
subtl y and more interesti ngl y as the conquest of ti me. For the
conquest by i tsel f is not a process proper to capi tal i s m, the great
despoti c States have ah vays practi sed i t , and doubtl ess the nomads as
wel l ; but, for these l atter, it cannot be threatening, si nce i t was onl y
the pi l l age of transient energi es , a di sconti nuous wi thdrawal
[pdlh'cmell t ] , a regul ated-regul ator; as for the former, i t has by
contrast al ways been fatal t o them because i t created a di sparity
between the quanti ties of energy conquered and the assi mi l abl e
quantities of energy: al ways too much or too l i ttl e of the frst
rel ative to the second. Capi tal i sm incl udes, on the contrary, i n the
name of increased accumul ati on, growth, devel opment, etc. , a
dispositif of the regulation oj conquest, a disposi tiJ of permanent
conquest . The speci al i ty of this dispositiJ l i es i n a certai n use of
currency, which is a game wi t h ti me. The l i bidinalfiction of this use
must be grasped; the examination of mercantili sm, and trade frst of
all, V'ill d1l0V us to dppr odch i l o
Nicomachean Erotics
Let' s not wait for the historians to validate the following event (all
the more because they may have already done so . . . ) in order to
make it a core of questions that preoccupy us, we libidinal
economists: the mhon that Detienne, Vidal-N aquet, Vernant and
Finley place at the empty centre of the ancient Greek collective of
warrior-talkers, this place for depositing all the plundered l oot, this
tribunal at the centre of the civil world, this geometral plan of the
isonomia of the citizens, this hub where all the political radii are
instantiated and all the diameters of exchange are neutralized, in
sum, this zero, well, it's the same one that Aristotle institutes, under
the name of money, as the j udge of economic exchanges . Its
dist ributive j ustice consists initially in annulling the terms of the
exchange and the exchangists themselves, inasmuch as one wants
(' desires' , needs, fancies, is motivated to acquire, is interested in)
what the other has. Marx, rereading the texts of the Nicomachearl
Ethics, will induce from them the conviction that a theory of
exchange, which notably remains tied to prices and to needs, is
incapable of understanding why two chairs , and not three, wil l have
to be offered against one table. And he will say: an obj ective value is
necessary, a measurable element common to both terms , we must
descend beneath the scene of the market, and in the basement we
must fnd the totally obj ective and necessary machinery of subjec
tive and contingent exchanges. By so doing, he evidently and
intentionally dClla/ucs the place of the price, by turning it into the
surface, the skin of the economic body, almost an illusi on.
Now, if we start again with the zero of the money-j udge, with its
function of annulment as Aristotle understood it (without concern
ing ourselves, we must repeat, with knowing how, and much less
why, the fgure of the isonomic warrior-politician circle is or is not
displaced into the economic sphere - or better: how and why in the
Lihidirl a/ EWII OIY
Aristotelian world, instead of men bearing arll l s and words, there
will be tradesmen and cOll l modities), we take this skin of the body
utterly seriously, precisely because we realize that in libidinal
eCOll om y, there is nothing but skin on the inside and the outside,
there is only one 111 0noface surface, the libidinal body is a Moebius
strip, and a dispositif like that of the 1Il (;SON is not an underground
machinery beneath the pl ateau of the stage o the wings, quite the
contrary, it commands certain instantiations of libidinal impul sions
on the body-band, the bl ockage and exclusion of other regions: so
the chattering warriors and pederasts don't even show their arse to
women, slaves, metics, children, foreigners, nature, but their
pn:f/c, preoccupied as they arc with the Illad accumulative circle of
interal debts of deaths and lives, of productions :d words,
fascinated exclusively by the balancing out oLl that, its compensa
tion and maintenance at the regulatory zero, no longer haressing
any ' exteral' force insot:u as it will be able to tlnd its expression, its
place and its neutralization in the worl d of citizen-calcul ators.
Thus the ' pol itical' order and, in the narrowest senSl' of the word,
the mercantile order, that of the market where exchanges using
payment moncy take place, is not taken by us as the expression of
sotctilitl else, tor example, of hidden relations of production, of a
subterranean order to be deciphered, no, we take it as a modality, as a
fgure, a dispositijby means of which the pulsions running across the
sufaccs of the 'bodies' of the young and old, male and female,
Greeks and non-Greeks, arc to be fund driven back towards this
centre where they congregate, combine, conspire and must always
ultimately be annulled; that is, they are primarily driven back 'to the
outside' . This entails, and not metaphorically, many things; for
instance, this: the citizen's 'body', the fa mOlS Greek body, is a tiny
fragment of the polymorphous ribbon (the mono face band), and
the city, the poiitcia, consists in only rendering useful, utilizable, a
tiny fragment of the lnd. The harmonious, voluminous totality of
the athlete is a prludice as regards the pieces of the libidinal surface.
What is a citizen-body? The pulsional investment of the penis and
the logos. But the shank and language arc here dilcyted from the
charge points ofred them by the confgurations of other societies.
Far indeed from reserving his semen for the female womb and
therefore for the propagation of the species, the Pythagorean
homosexuals apportion it out. They will of course impregnate their
women, this will simply be the price to be paid for providing the city
Trade 1 57
with young people to educate, arm, introduce into and annul in the
homosexual circle. One part sperm for propagation, one part for
masculine commerce. 1 They strangely reverse the terms of a
dispositifthat one used to be able to think of as natural; it is when they
go to bed with their women that they prostitute themselves, for the
prostitute transforms the client's jouissance into money and there
fore phlegmatically converts the perverse libido or simply its use,
the surplus of pulsional energy scattered in society, and dangerous
to it, deadly because it is capable of setting it off in every sense2
without any regard for its organic unity - it converts therefore these
perversions or diversions of energy into money, and then into
commodities (into capital indeed) , thereby taking care to safeguard
the social whole, assuming the sacred malediction of genital
sterility, but simultaneously bringing about the return of these 'lost'
expenditures into the circuit of social exchanges. The prostitute
therefore redeems perversion (the diversion of the pulsions) by
replacing its product, not semen exactly, but its equivalent, money,
not in the entry to her uterus which is necessarily closed of while
the penile clientele frequent her, but in the entry to the goods
market, and therefore to society. But our warrior, when he makes
children with his woman, behaves just like the prostitute when she
makes money from society through her client's perversion. And just
as the client pays money for the fruitlessness of whatever jouissance
he may derive, thereby paying homage to the social Eros, so the
citizen pays by the semen he deposits in the woman's genitalia for
this truly sterile jouissance, only obtaining his satisfaction elsewhere
in civic homo-eroticism. What happens here then, is not the
harnessing of deadly energies in a monetary form, but their
regulation under the genital form; but this latter would then appear
and this is the great Greek reversal - as the new and genuine
prostitution, prostitution turned inside out; from now on every
woman, and no longer insofar as she is sterile, but insofar as she is
impregnated, like a machine that transforms sperm into a child, into a
potential warrior - every woman would therefore appear as a
detestable but necessary appendage for the one authorized function
ofjouissance, which is here the production of a society of loquacious
citizens, homosexuals and warriors. It is propagation which
becomes prostitution for them, that is to say the indispensable
redemption of the sterile intensities of homosexual jouissance by
means of the reproduction of children. They pay in semen for
1 5H Li bidinal Economy
perverting semen. They havc, therefore, two penises, one for this
payment, the other for civic jouissml Ce.
Now where is this civic jouissance on the inside of the circl c of
men, apart from payment at its fronticrs? Wh:t is exchanged herc,
i f not more children, that i s to say, the means of reproduction? How
are the the conncctions of libidinal body-strips in the circle of
warriors organized? The absol ute identity required of the members
of this circle, cal l ed thc equality of ci tizens, isotl omia, equal distance
from the centre, from the meson, the fact that they are all apparently
males and spcakers of thc Attic and Hoplite tongues, that each of
them can come to the centre, into this empty tribunal which
nevertheless no-one must be able to occupy and appropriate on a
long-term basis, the fact that the words of politi cal decision must
fol l ow the singular rule of the tetra logos (I speak, you respond, I
respond to you, you respond to me), after which it is resolved
(bouleusis) - all these characteristics make the pol i tei,) a strange
dispositif for the Il 1l uimcnt (i diferences. This annulatioll is operative
fom the outset, since i t is required only of males in this circle of
citzens; and i t operates as the rule of al l rules of pol i ti cal administra
tion, the rotation of offces, the eligibility of offcials, the
revocabi l i ty of appointments, public del i beration on all decisions,
the counting of votes: in every case, return to the zero, neutraliza
tion by the zero. This democracy, it wi l l be said, rests on the
obfuscation of both sexual difrence and that of labour. But it
further and essentially impl ies the geometrical formalization of
pulsional bodies, and still more it requires an algebra of the pulsions,
their comparability, their exchangeability and their annulabi l ity by
means of some neutral element .
The impossible, dangerous l iaison of Al cibiades with Socrates (at
least as recounted by Plato in The Symposium) not only proves that
Eros is at work amongst the citizens, which we know already, it
teaches us rather that the circular organization of the desiring bodies
in the pol iteia necessarily inscribes them into an equal exchange,
equivalence. Alcibiades offers himself to Socrates so that the latter
might take pleasure in his youth and beauty, but in order to obtain in
exchange the secret of the Old Man' s wisdom. There is a market, it
supposes therefore the exchangeability of terms which arc here the
penis-anus region on the one hand (Alcibiades), and on the other
(Socrates) the discursive oral region. It is necessary to see in t his
business proposition a particular sort of amorous advance. Enoy
ment, in its political economic perversity, counts on a revenue and
Trade 159
discounts what it advances: expenditure with the greatest proft and
the least loss. Alcibiades is counting then, and Socrates, justifying
his apparent refusal to enter the market, in fact provides the theory
of every market (in the simple mercantilism that is politics), which is
that there is nothing to be gai ned, that every exchange and the balance
of every account is nil. My wisdom's worth in gold, says Socrates, is
zero. Such is the virtu required by the politeia: to remain staunchly
within the zero of impulsional exchanges, to live without having
lost or gained, to regulate the circulation of libidinal energies at the
mi ni max, at the minimum of losses and the maximum of gains
allowing the partners a zero sum game (the exchangeable quantities
are constant) and a game of complete information (each knows what
the other will ask at the centre): a draw at chess, for example.
Hence the sterilization of penises, and compensation in semen;
and also the limitation of the number of exchangist citizens, and
again the eroticization of the speech through which, in these political
games, essential alnouncements arc made. The city is made therefore
from completely working over the 'bodies' which enter it, from a
squaring-off hy which they are reduced to a few useful organs, all
the other organs banished, all vaginas, all foreign tongues, every
hand which cannot kill, but only work, all speeches delivered
somewhere other than in the centre, and douhtless many more besides
. . . Far from being a complete man, the kalos kagathos is a section
from the pulsional body-band, a piece of the surface where the
libido's investment and its fowing towards discharge are strictly
restricted. But more astonishing even than this, is that discharges
from one body to others must be compensated for, therefore that
the entire coursing of the pulsions across the circle must cross the
central zero and that after each cycle, the quitus - that is to say the
quies, * the quiescence of nullity - may be pronounced by the group
of exchangists. So not only the parcelling-out of the citizen-body,
which is not original in itself since the pulsional body has never been
and will never be united, unified with itself, and no social
organization can anchor itself in its impossible totality - but the
instantiation of the useful segment of this body on the zero-centre.
Annulatory perversion: annulling through movement, on the ring
of the city. Concentration [ circonversion].
' Quics (L) : rest, repose; absence of disturbance, motion, anxiety, aggression;
non-participation in a confict . - tIl
l W Li hidinal ECMlm
It is, in particular, in the very institution of the cleavage between
use- and exchange-values that one assists with this political opera
tion. If the bodies at work in the poiitei a, and, in Aristotle, the goods
and needs in play in the koi noni a, can be exchanged according to the
law of the fnal zero, it is because they have frst undergone the strict
libidinal 'education' which will entitle only those segments of the
band where jouissall(c will be instantiated convertibly to remain in
place on the axora, on the market. Market equivalence is the double
of political homosexuality: signs of more and less can be applied to
these pieces of the body and to the fuxes which cross them, because
they are quantitatively calculable, having been set down as homoge
neols. What Aristotle, the first of the political economists, will call
need, chreia, is what becomes of the pulsional charge, pressing
towards discharge [poussant d joll ir] in one segment of the isonomic,
concentrated body. And the usc-value of a good, which is its value
in terms ofjouissall(c in these conditions on the circle, will be the
capacity of this good, being plugged into the segment of the
desiring body, not only to lead it to discharge, but to render the
resultant product capable of being tured back once again onto the
market, and annullable in the fnal balancing out of losses and gains.
Use-value is, consequently, immediately subordinated to exchange
value, which is already ajouissance in the economists', rather than the
erotologists' sense.
This is not to say that it doesn' t exist, that it is illusory, or
alienated. It is nothing of the sort, and, conspicuously, we turn our
backs on this old critique. Once again, to sustain it, we would have
to be able to speak of a total libidinal body, of a band or collection of
organs whICh can be invested at every point, capable of discharge
rapte a jouir] everywhere without exemption, in comparison to
which every jouissance instantiated in one place or another would be
so only at the price of a genuine amputation. We recognize this old
image, we libidinal economists, it is not so much jOlissance as
phantasm (an entirely sad and nihilist idea), but the make-believe of
totalization, of al Eros without a death drive (or, Marcuse,
reconciled with it), of a unity without loss. An idea not far removed
from mechmlism, as strange as it may seem: for absent from this and
from every physical theory of movement ex hypothesi , is the
principle that all ineliminable, irrepressible disorder might at
unexpected moments and according to inevaluable modalities, come
to disturb the organizations of movements and bring about the
Trade 161
dismembering of mechanical bodies. But the death drive of which
Freud speaks, and which underlies our own libidinal economism,
implies on the contrary a tremendous chance (not in itself, but due to
its indiscernibility) , and if he called it the pulsion of death, it is
because this chance inevitably involves the disorder of the dispositij
at work, their lethalization, just as the 'proper' functioning of these
dispositis - for example, that of the iSOIlOmia of citizens and
commodities - stifes beneath its harmonious music the grating and
the cries of all the segments of the body-band removed from the
circulation of the libidinal fuxes, dehydrated, sterilized, rebellious:
subversives beyond concentration. If use-value is from the outset
instituted with exchange-value in the geometry and the algebra of
the city and the market, it is because it is nothing without this
exchange-value and this isonomi a, and one would be unable, as Marx
did, to appeal for one against the other, as what is authentic against
what was wrongfully assumed. Everything is false and everything
is true. Utility and its 'value' are cut-ups [decoupages] of bodies,
corresponding to exchange and its equilibrium. All this is just one
disposittf Use and need are not exteriorities, naturalities, or refer
ences from which one would be able to criticize exchange, they are a
part of it.
'Everything must have its money value fxed, because then there
will always be exchange, and if exchange, association. Strictly
speaking', adds Aristotle, 'things so widely different cannot
become commensurable; but in relation to need a suffcient degree
of accuracy is possible. So there must be some one standard, and that
on an agreed basis (ex hypothesi) (which is why money is so called) ,
because this makes all things commensurable, since they can all be
measured in terms of money . . . It is this that has led to the
introduction of money, which serves as a sort of mean (meson) . . .
but by a convention need has come to be represented by money. '3
Strictly speaking then, the terms of the exchange are not exchange
able, ellery segment of the l i bidinal band is absolutely singular. By
convention, however, under the name of need, the pressure from
the strength of desire on whatever points of this band will become
measurable, and by convention one will contrast it, under the name
of a good, for plugging in and discharge, with a proportion of
another body or product of that body. Who is this one? The dispositif
of the politeia-koi nonia . And as regards money, it is the standard as
accounting money and the neutral clement as payment money: the
1 62 Li bidinal Ecol1 om
convention of conventions of need. The need is what is utterly
dissipated by means of money. Money is the zero of need. But it is
because the need was frst the median site of desires, the reabsorp
tion of intensities as measurable intentiolls, just as the isonomic
citizcn was obtained through the reprcssion of heteronomies and
anolllies. Need is desire maintained within the canons of identity, it
is exchangeable because it is not difrent, or indifferent.
'What money docs for us is to act as a guarantee (I:XU(t(s) of
exchange in the future: that if it is needed now, it will take place as
the need arises . . . '4 This zero of money is therefore something else
still : it is a temporal instance, the eteral present of possible
exchange, and hence of need and possible need. It is the ' for all time'
of the market and the community. Money introduces an omnitem
poral ity, that of the economic cycle and that of thought insofr as
both arc instantiated on the mean. The zero of money is the region
of annulation, potential, always possible: I am hungry, I buy, I cat;
where there was exteriority of a need and a good, nothing remains
(need satisfed, good consumed) but the zero of the money paid,
passed into the hands of the seller. The latter experiences no need,
this zero in his hands assures me, assures us all (who arc on the
circumference) that he will put it ba into circulation against some
of our goods. This zero of exchange' s past which makes us quits, is
at the same time the zero of a deposit against future settlements.
Between the need, this political-economic form of desire, whose
essential characteristic is solubility, that is to say possible resolution
or suppression through money, between the need and this suppres
sion itself, the zero of money opells up duration and the durable,
permanence. The soluble need, is, in itself, eyuall y preJ.ctable. And
everything that there is on the periphery of the mercantile political
circle fnds itself then instantiated on the possible. But nothing is
more unknown to the pulsion hooked onto its little segments of the
two dimensional film, than the possible.
Thought begins with the possible. This is why the loxos begins with
the politeia and the market. It is as if the voice or writing, the
production of signs with a view to exchange, monopolized almost
all the libido of the citizen-merchant bodies. But I am not saying that
the body that speaks, writes and thinks, does not enjoy, it is a
segment of the fat body of the pulsions, rather that its charge,
instead of taking place in singular intensities, comes to be folded
back not only onto the need of the market and the city, but onto the
Trade 1 63
zero where both are centred, onto the zero of money and discourse.
Nihilism brings this with i t: needs, one will say, and therefore the
hodies who are supposedly their bearers , needs and their proprie
tors , the talking mouths, create nothing but ceaseless transition, and
there is nothing actual , death alone is immortal, this empty meson
around which the members of the koinonia gravitate.
Ulysses , a commodi ty in transition from form to form, returns
to Ithaca. Ulysses, the speaker and the liar, all his words are
annulled, whether true or fal se, in the fnal recogni tion, all his
proofs in the fnal identi ty. Ulysses is Hegelian spirit, the domina
tion of the possible, the devaluation of all affrmation in favour of a
nothing, Hegelian s cepticism already arrived at its empty plenitude.
A circular voyage, for nothing. This is the voyage of money
metamorphosing through all its incarnations, but it is none of them,
they are only the moments of a s omething which is nothing, money.
But i t is also the voyage of the concept, seeking, by trial and error, to
exchange itself according to the rule of logic (determination) , and
reducing the affrmed-affrmative singularities to representations or
forms of itself, j ust as money reverses everything in its possible
To die/not to di e. In thi s oscillation of the yes and the no (which i s
expressed perfectly in French, according to A. Culioli, by the
interrogati ve-refexive infnitive: voyager . . . ?) , the linguist sees the
modality of the possible, which, once again, he calls the notion. One
might think that, beneath superfcial differences of expression, it
exists in every language, but what the dispositif or fgure of which we
speak does for the Greeks, i s to make this modality predominate
over others - the predominance of the negative: the /0 in parity with
the yes, negation with affrmation, affrmation affrming itself only
on condition that it determines, excludes . Socrates' labour, the
binary analyses of the later Plato. But desire as displ acement of
forces over the libidinal body knows no ' no' . None of these
exclusions of certain regi ons, bl ockages of certain routes, none of
the stases which result in quantities of energy being inves ted as kinds
of channels irrigating such zones, not one of these operations i s a
negation or a denial, each proceeds from the investment of the
libido alone; - and it is onl y, pulsional jealousy excepted, in the body
wi th a memory, instantiated on memory, on permanence, i n fact
therefore on the concept of its life (its survival) , it is onl y in such a
body and in relation to it, in relation to its alleged totality, that one
1 M Li hidiral Ewnomy
will be able to say that the instantiation of the forces of jolissatw: in
such 'regions' as these is accompanied by a disaffection of others
and in conscqucnce by a sort of denial focusing on these latter as
objects unacceptable to thc former.
We must take Freud's mctaphors quite seriously herc, that is to say
we must not take thl'm as metaphors, or takc them just as they are, those
by which with the help of images of foreign towns or countries,
such as Rome or Egypt, just like Piranesi ' s Prisons or Escher' s Other
Worlds , he suggests an entirely affrmative unconscious, simul
taneously accumulating investments 111 the most perverse
appearances (for the logos) on every point of the libidinal body.
What Freud makes us consider through thcse arrogant violations of
the rudimentary rules of spacc-time, is prccisely the affnnativity of
these occupations of libidinal terrain. Nihilism indeed comes from
Socrates, doubtless not in thc way that Nietzschc thought in his
slightly naIve faith in dualism in The Bi rth 4 Tra,edy, but instead
from the model of the talking homosexual warrior-citizen which
the early Platonic Socratcs demonstrates.
Whcn Plato puts the nihi l into Socratcs' mouth, whcn thc lattcr
rejects Alcibiades' bargain, it is not (for oncc . . . ) the Ii hi l of a
transccndence, of an atctive statc or a statc of thought which
would be kept out of reach, placed in anothcr region: it is the
negation of this region, it is also therefore thc negation of
hypostatized place, the affrmation that there is no site of discourse
and knowledge other than that of trade, which could be gained by
paying the highcst price, it is in this way that philosophy's words are
suddenly put back in their place, in annulatory exchange, and thus
committed to annihilation like all exchangeable objects; and, on the
other hand, these objects are from now on established to be
immediately annihilablc, that the body' s desire takes possession of
them, grabs hold of them as positivc extensions, these objects are
fated for annihilation by the zero of book-keeping at exactly the
same time as they are desired. If thc worth of my knowledge in gold
is zero, says Socrates, it is not becausc it is nothing, but because it is
money, the vehicle of exchanges and the means of the annulment of
' debts', that is to say stases of forces [uissances] halted on the
libidinal body, illusions and errors .
Nihilism reigns then on the interior of the circle. The predomi
nance of the rtotion (in the linguists' sense), that is to say of the
concept (in the philosophers' sense) or of money, not only affects
Trade 165
bodies by transforming the displacements of energy into needs, it
not only affects objects by transforming their plugging into use
value for purposes of discharge, it will also affect the talking mouth
by so imposing on him that he can no longer enjoy the production of
narratives of destiny, the henceforth popular imagery of myths or
the henceforth artistic staging of tragedies, that is to say in simulacra
homogeneous to the libidinal body, in that they count in terms of
the extreme intensities which they convey, making those so-called
spectators weep, rejoice, cry, these spectators who are violently
plugged into these simulacra to pump up and pour out their
pleasure-pain - no, the citizen-mouth will have to enjoy the policed
political exchange of arguments, in the fastidious Face to Face and
Equally Armed of Isocrates, Lysias, and all analogous plaintit, the
Peyrefttes and the Marchais, in fne tones, in an evenness of tone
and temper, and in the rhetorical regulation of divergences of tone
and temper. Instead of arguments, discourses about arguments. The
mouth will have to enjoy in this way, which is not to say that this will
come about - Plato complains often enough that it does not, and that
all democrats are rabble, that Callicleses do not speak so as to gain the
minimax, but to eliminate the adversary, and that the tyrannical city
is like a body sectioned off into incredible polarities. Nevertheless,
for want of good (nullifying) politics, philosophical discourse will
emerge from this exigency, as dialogues with a neutralizing
function, where the result of words will end with a notion on which
all the protagonists agree (squared-off citizen-bodies) and by means
of which, consequently, the reasons for pursuing the discussion will
in the end disappear. This notion, this concept, is a word which will
enable the players' mutual debts to be discharged, it will be money
from new mouths, the nihil in which they will al ways be able to
annihilate the libidinal forces (uissances) that move them. And as the
citizen-body rejects the uterus, manufacturing hands, barbarous
phonemes and syntaxes, so the citizen-mouth will consign the cries,
all the signs of its belonging to the libido, to the dungeon of
Dionysus' nocturnes. First enclosure: night, the frst prison, from the
point of view of the beautiful zero tic sun of the Apollonians. Its
black a-market.
Lydian Eulogy
Herodotus says: ' The Lydians were the frst people we know of to
use a gold and silver coinage and to introduce retail trade. '5 In the
Li bidinal Econom
previous line he remarks that the only difference between the Greek
and Lydian money-makers and retailers, is that the latter delivered
their daughters into prostitution. This libidinal consistency must be
admired. Payment money is the zero installed es meson, centred, with
the koinonia of men (merchants this time), on this zero, and
homosexual perversion established in the market in the form of the
homogeneous llorJ11ality of exchanges and exchangeable goods.
This normality is perverse in the sense that it is sterile, all past
exchanges achieving annulment. Far from aiding propagation, this
normality inserts it into the impasse of an unproductive algebra.
The instance of the market, centred on the zero of li things
considered, can only beat time according to the pulsation, from now
on regularized, of 'needs' arising here and there on the circum
frence of the mercantilist circle, in the bodies of those called
buyers. These latter come therefore to the centre, to the market, and
collate what each can (wants to) give with what each wants to (can)
receive. Goods arc balanced out here and there, as are needs,
necessarily, as marginalism shows: for every exchange from A to B
is at the same time, for A himself, all exchange, a comparison
between what he has and what he desires to have. In this way a
proportionality of what is offered and what demanded, of the
actual and the possible, is established. Thus the famous 'hump
backed curve' will be established, the inscription of diverse choices
on the axes of 'utility' , which are otherwise encoded in Morgenstern
and Rapoport's matrices, of which we will say more later on.
If the game is zero sum, if all that A can gain is lost by B, if
therefore there is no (xteriority to the circle of citizens' exchanges,
and if they remain in the zero of the miii eu, it is clear thal lht pltl1l
remains utterly infertile. This society of merchant-men is a quite
singular libidinal dispositi a di!ositi of the libido's conservation in a
sort of pulsional treasure constituted by the members of the
koinonia, the wealth of which circulates from one to the other
without ever leaving the circle and without any libidinal supplement
ever being introduced into it. Therefore, not only is it a very
selective dispositi but a very conservative one, in the pulsional sense:
for the zero of annulments of exchange is, understood in terms of
intensities, the sign that the merchant citizen society completely
follows the dictates of a regulator of tensions itself programmed on
a unit of tension which is the sum of intensities present throughout
the circle. If these intensities are entered into a ledger, it is because
Trade 167
they have already passed through the flter of the politeia, which
excludes, as we have said, enormous pieces of the labyrinthine band
of the libidinal body. I n this case, this market or this city functions
as a stable, homeostatically regulated whole, the zero marking the
simple return to a state prior to the excitation of exchange. The
economic (but doubtless j ust as much political and erotic) cycle is
thus determined by the instantiation of all operations on a mean, or
meson, or Mitte, or medium, or minimax, i n which differences are
annulled. But differences can be annulled there only because they
are simultaneously annulled in the constitution of the citizen
merchant-Iover-partners, identical bodies where desire, deprived
hoth of its errancy, by means of strict localizations, and of leaps of
tension by rigorous educational adjustments (the paideia), will be
exchangeable against itself in equal quantities.
Here then, the zero of all things considered is at the same time the
sterility of the koinonia. When money functions solely as payment
money, it ensures that nothing happens, to such an extent that society
can no longer reproduce itself Hence the fringe of women and
workers which provide it with young exchangists and fresh goods.
But this fringe functions only, let 's repeat, on condition that the
women are impregnated by homosexual citizens, who then pros
titute themselves in reverse: if homosexual perversion has become
the model normality, fertile heterosexuality will only be able to be
carried out by means of the extreme devaluation which i n principle
accompanies prostitution. I n fertilizing his wife, the Greek citizen
diverts a part of his emotions from the circle of the politeia, he
devotes them to something other, having no civic rights; but this
something, the uterus, will, in the form of the chil d, provide the
city from which the child is excluded with what this citizen penis,
diverted from its noble pederastic function, has conceded it in
semen. But the prostitute, or her proprietor, also turns back onto
what is called the social organism, in the form of the money she has
gained by making a career from her body, the unusable, perverse
jouissance of her clients. This is all a very Hegelian alienation.
Meanwhile, in the ' standard' case of prostitution where it is the
woman who is prostituted, it is not her womb that forms the useful
section of her hody, but any segment whatever (according to what
the client demands). As such (indifferent), the she-prostitute is
therefore j ust as much a he-prostitute. The turning back, the retur
to the ' community' of the social body cannot take place in the form
16H Libiditwl Ewnomy
of children (since it is this which the client, the pervert, tars and
which he goes to her arms in order to avoid), it must therefore take
place in the form of an equivalent to children: money.
When the Lydians prostitute their daughters, they take an
immense step forward over the Hellenes. The latter only prostitute
their penises, the time to ensure the reproduction of citzens, that is to
sa y the retur, through the mediation of the uterus - pudcl1da par
cx(ellence - of a proportion of their pulsional expenditure. This is
prostitution because frst of all, it is the diversion beyond the civic
institution of the pulsions which belong to prostitution; and
because, in the second place, it is also the retum to this institution, in
children, of these diverted pulsional quantities. In all that, a simple
calculation of survival and homeostatic regulation. Basically,
homosexuality pursued through the vagina and the uterus (ust like
the prostitute and her pimp: wealth pursued through the perversions
of the clientele).
But the Lydians of Herodotus the gentle drealllCf, who arc
doubtless equally forced to pass this way, in other respects suddenly
extelld til e //larket. For to prostitute their daughters - and not their
wives who retain the aforesaid reproductive t ction - is on the one
hand to commit them to sterility and on the other to make them
enter into the circular game of the exchange market as goods and
proprietors of goods (there is no difference) that can pass from
hand to hand. The homosexuality of the Dorian warriors is lacking
here its characteristic trait of isonomia. The genuine merchant
exchanges as much with one 'sex' as with the other. He stops
conceiving of and practising with the female body as a reproduction
machine, he can plug it into the circulation ofjouissances, but always
under the (perverse, homosexual) condition that this body remains
sterile, that its 'natural' fecundity is barred, and that for it is
substituted a capacity for the reproduction of money. The Lydian
citizen docs not impregnate this woman (his daughter), he indem
nfes her, or her proprietor, he pays her, and this payment money is
the same as that in circulation on the goods market. By paying her,
he can, having consumed her, annul her consumption (pay off his
debt to her), since this money will return to the centre in one way or
another, when the daughter or her proprietor, having some need to
satisfy, will come looking for the complementary good from him.
And so nothing will happen.
This dispositif which we will call 'Lydian', taking Herodotus at his
word, 'anticipates' capitalism, and this is why it is even more
Trade 169
interesting than the aristocratic circle of the Attic pederast killers. It
'anticipates' capitalism in two ways. First it extends the possibility
of being counted and measured to other segments of the pulsional
body-band. The Greeks left at least women out of isonomia; they did
not invent a-sexism. The Lydians affrm that the female (sexual)
apparatus may provide an opportunity for ajouissance very similar to
that obtained in homosexuality, as well as sterilization and the
comparison of this apparatus with some other segment, on condi
tion that it is quantitatively balanced out. You understand that what
is in question here, is, at the infnite limit, the introduction of all the
parts of the 'entire' labyrinth of the pulsional body into the circle of
exchanges, it is this whole warped, coiled, stretched surface, the
immensity of which we will have some idea of if we succeed in
making a plane projection of it - but a 'complete' projection which
does not avoid any coil of intestinal mucus, any valve, any
roughness, useful or lseless, of any duct, any light texture of the
slightest epithelial envelope, any fssure of the cortex, any hardening
of the soles of the feet (an impossible cartography, but obviously
so, next to which anatomical illustrations look like academic
records), and in which, to begin with, the distinction of the exterior
from the interior would no longer even be looked for, suspected, or
revealed, any more than that of masculine and feminine - so, in this
wa y the whole labyrinthine surface of the pulsions presents itself as
a candidate for mercantilization when the Lydians prostitute their
daughters. For if, by the mediation (Vermittlung) of money, you can
fnd a taker for a vagina in the same category as for an anus, then it is
because you envisage that each parcel of the great labyrinthine band
may be turned to cash in the Milieu (Mitte). And it is precisely this which
is at issue today in universal capitalism.
But obviously this can only be possible, even fr the Lydians, if
each of the segments of the pulsional body capable of being
exchanged for money 01 the market as opportunities fr jouissance,
has itself already been weighed up and balanced against some other
segment, so that the proprietor of this segment, its procurer (given
that the /lormal man is, in these market conditions, the procurer of all
the possible regions of his body, that he exists only as the instance of
location of the libidinal investment of one or the other of these
regions, such as his 'culture' or his education, for purposes of
solvency), so that this proprietor, then, has himself already weighed
up, estimated, evaluated, favoured (all this not at all consciously, of
170 Lihidinal Economy
course) some other region, in a sort of impossible labour of
comparison. Impossible because this latter necessitates what the
pulsion cannot do: nul lify i tsel f, make itself possibl e, whereas it is
affrmation without modal i ty. Its ubiquity, the fact that it i s
invested here and there on the labyrinthine body, clitoral and anal
excitability, for example, or indeed a headache and genital distur
bance, has no relation whatsoever with a lI1odalization or modula
tion of the 'if . . . then' type, nor with the type 'may be', nor the
'either . . . or'. For languages with a si milar conjugation to French,
the infnitive, as has already been said, was not suffcient even to
si tuate the pulsional investment, for the infnitive is always accom
panied, as its shadow, by its negative: to bel not to be, insofar as it
restricts what is thought, the notion excl udes from it everything that
does not belong to it, in the mode of the Vcmei/llmg. And it is because
one is by then already in the process of thought that such a
determination has the positional value of the possible, what is
thought al ways being collated on the basis of what is left out of
thought as its opposite and as what differs from it .
In saying that the dream or schizophrenia treats words as things,
Freud was underlining precisely the proper way in which the
pulsional signals its presence even in the order of thought, produc
i ng effects in it which are intellectually intolerabl e, of the Aural in
the sense of paralogisms, aporias, petitio principii, vicious circles,
errors, omissions, inconsistencies, meaningl essness, and fnal l y the
extreme delirium by which the pul sional rises to the point of parody,
becoming indistinguishable from the organization of rati onal
thought, in a gi gantic efrt made in order to plunge us into a kind
of terror situated well beyond scepticis m: can one think, that is to
say distinguish?
But the pulsion occupying the hollow of the hand and the fol ded
armpit of which Bellmer speaks, is, at the same time as it invests the
vulval l ips, lodged here and there without having to be instantiated
here rather than there, heedl ess as it is of ever unifying what it runs
across by consuming it. That's why comparison, which requires the
annihilation of the items compared for purposes of unifcation,
already exerts the crushing pressure of unitary order on the pulsions
and their singular investments . It is es sential to show, and thi s i s
what the Lydians make us understand, that thi s unitary order i s i n
reality a nulliying organization. For on t he band of the pulsional
labyrinth, unity will come about only on condition that each
Trade 171
investment is made compatible with another, and calculable in
proportion to it, comparison and calculation requiring the annihila
tion or possibilization of what, as libido, is always invested
affrmatively. Therefore the unity of the organic body, which we
approach to the extent that the fortuitous seizures of the libido
which crush and block regions of the band are released and
removed, is in pulsional economy dependent on a sort of annulment
of investments for purposes of equilibriation. The subject on the
circle, the subject-merchant-citizen, is contemporaneous with a
species of negotiation over scraps of the labyrinthine band.
Psychiatrists, having the good-humoured naIvety in outlook of
all agents of order, describe the normalization of the hysteric in
these terms: clinical repetitive conditioning [ matraquageJ, constraining
the patient to abandon his compulsion, but which also forbids him
from falling into doubt with regard to his compulsion (that is to say
to abandon himself to delirium . . . ). Therefore, neither pulsional
investment, nor delirious investment: he must (as psychiatrists
always say . .. ) be led to an affective zero, and since this is
unbearable, something like a transference onto the doctor will be
obtained in the end, that is to say the opening up of a possible
communication . . .
This is how the paideia is described. For on the libidinal body, with
its beatings, education blocks this and opens that route, provides
comparisons, introduces interest where, pulsionally, there is no
consideration of revenue. If the doctor happens to speak of a proft,
of a libidinal beneft, if Freud, in regard to Dora's cough, happens to
suspect a primary proft from the illness (which would be the saving
of effort, the profit that a crippled worker gains from his becoming
immobile) and a secondary beneft also, comparable to alcoholism,
which, according to Freud, the injured worker will not fail to spend
the proceeds of his begging on (one should hope so) - these
comparisons introduce the most serious, the most pernicious
confusion into considerations of libidinal economy. They pose the
problem in reverse, they thematize the pulsional labyrinth of Dora
as if it was managed by a fnance minister or a banker, or even by an
unemployed proletarian, that is to say by entities all of which,
despite their extreme social inequalities, have in common that they
belong to the circle of political economy and to its central zero, and
that they exist only as the power to calculate utilities and to choose.
So the acephalia of the great mono face labyrinthine band is
172 Libidinal !W/l 0 1 Y
suppressed, the psychiatrist or the psychoanal yst substitutes a homo
occonomicus for it, capable of compari sons and rati os, a head ful l of
this negative which one German phi l osopher ended up daring to say
that it i s this that docs all the work, meaning: all t he trade.
This substitution is what the Lydians require, with their prostitu
tion and their money. The comparisons and ratios over the pulsional
hody will take place by means of money, and so the body will cease
to be this impossible l andscape swept by libidinal infuxes, it will he
exchangeable piece by piece, part for part, i t i s centred on its own
zero, it makes itself capable of pl ayi ng rational games with itself of
simulating investments so as to be abl e to measure them and work
Olt the most profitable combination. With the installation of the zero
on the body, obtained inevitabl y at the price of the eli mination of
entire regions, we arc dealing with the i nstitution of the I. This I is
the proprietor of the libidinal felds whi ch from now on arc defned
and controlled, and it can venture into the mercantilist ci rcum
ference to offer and demand certain fields and sections of felds. On
the Lydian circle, everything is marketabl e, the commodity
devel ops from universality, the I is its procurer.
A narrative by Vera Schmi dt, concerning the institution of trade:
The children start to collect fowers. While collecting fowers,
Wolik (3 years and 3 months) set down hi s little boxes not far
away in the grass. Genj a (2 years and 10 months) drew close to
take them; W olik cries to her from a distance: 'You have no right,
they belong to me!' Genj a whi mperi ng: ' But I want these little
boxes . ' I say to her: ' You see, Genj a, i t doesn't make you happy
when Wol i k doesn't want to lend you the little boxes; and indeed,
i t didn't make him happy when you didn't want to lend him your
wheelbarrow. Next time, give him what he wants and he will give
you what you want too. ' Wol i k approaches and listens attentivel y.
When I had finished, he held hi s little boxes out to Gena wi th hi s
mind made up: ' Hey Genj a, I'll lend you, all ri ght?' Genj a is
delighted, she takes the little boxes and i s already about to escape
when she suddenly changes her mind and asks nicel y: ' Wol ik,
d'you want my wheelbarrow?' ' Oh yes, yes!' replies Wolik,
rejoicing. Genj a runs to her wheelbarrow but it has already been
taken by Wolodja (2 years and 10 months) . . . She is caught up i n
her game and doesn't fancy gi vi ng i t up to Wolik. Genj a remains
still and ponders something, eyebrows kni tted in a fxed gaze.
Then she takes a step towards Wolodj a. 'Wolodja, do you want
Trade 173
two little boxes?' Wolodja agrees, and gives the wheelbarrow over
to W olik. Everyone is happy: Genja has one little box, W oloda
two, and Wolik has the wheelbarrow. 6
And Vera Schmidt has her social body.
Institutive Prostitution
This is not all: the Lydians extend exchangeability to segments left
fallow, that's one thing; another is to underline that, in so doing, they
extend perversity. For it is true that from now on, potentially, as we
know and as the Lydians have 'always' known, every segment of the
sensualist body can, on condition that it is concentrated, take its
place as a 'good', that is to say as an object convertible according to
the 'nothing' (money), on the circle of exchanges, and it follows
that it is at the same time torn from the illusion of a natural
functioning and hence prepared for a polymorphous perverse use
(but under the stated condition). Polymorphous, since it is from the
impossible whole of the band where the pulsional fuxes course that
each arbitrarily withdrawn segment must be able to come to find its
place within the circuits of trade, which consequently offers, with
its central nullity, an unprecedented opportunity for libidinal
economy to manifest itself in the infnite, or at least the very great
number, of possible investments. On condition therefore of
metamorphosis, a very great polymorphism. This formal condition
of commutability lying heavily on the unconditional as regards
contents (signifcations, values, codes, beliefs, that is to say all the
stable and exclusive arrangements of groups of parts of the body
band) is 'always' that of capitalism. It is also that of mathematics and
its logic. When we say that this one or that one always \orks in
extension, we are not simply saying that they disregard the point of
view of comprehension, comprehension is just as extensive as
extension, it is its indispensable complement, the interior of its
exteriority, as use-value is to exchange-value. No, we mean that
what is abandoned on principle is intensity, which is the incomparable.
For all trade and politics rests on comparability. And the latter
necessarily requires the proportionalization of intensities. This
proportionalization is to intensities what the squaring-o.fof the early
Florentine perspectivists would be to the plastic intensities of the
ancient Chinese water-colourists. Every measure of intensities is a
species of excessiveness (which in its turn will not fail to gain a high
174 Libidillal E{ol1omy
intensive frce: intensity in relation to the zero, to the impossibk, to
consciollsness and bad consciousness). This excessiveness is calkd
reason. This latter is obtained through the search for a mean or
proportional mean, or minimax: all instances regulating the circulations
of intensities, therefore disintensifying or overintensifying them,
according to the case, so that exchange can take place 'expediently'.
We have a very fne model of this excessiveness of concentration
in games theory, the so-called 'marginal utility' in political eer)\)
omy. A. Rapoport recounts Tos{a: Scarpia, the chief of police,
holds Tosea's lover Cavaradossi prisoner. He is prepared to release
him on condition that she gives herself to him, i. e. Scarpia. Here is
Scarpia's reasoning: if I play the game, I would save the life of a
hated rival, but I would possess Tosea; if I don' t play the game, I
eould win on both counts. for her part, Tosca does her sums: giving
herself'to the horrible Scarpia, she saves her lover: equal score; the
best thing would be to obtain mercy tor Cavaradossi without
having to give in to the policeman's demands. Each of them, on
their own account, therefore has mlch to gain from cheating;
Scarpia taking Tosca, and killing his rival, Tosca escaping the cop
once Cavaradossi is safely hidden away. As Rapoport says, 'no
argument addressed individually to Tosca or to Scarpia will
convince them that they would do better to respect the market (= to
play the game sincerely) than to betray the other. Only an argument
addressed to both together would be strong enough. Only collective
reJsoning will be able to help them to avoid the trap of a double
betra yal. '7
Very wise conclusion, very Aronian, very Aristotelian: prudent
and democratic. Who or what will address this argument to both
players? A zero instance, a mediator, a middle term, a unit of
calculation, an empty centre. Anyone at all can take on the function
of a conciliator. The important thing is not the judge, but the criteria
for the calculation of losses and gains, damages and interests.
Rapoport proposes the fllowing matrix:
s s
Sg Sb Sb Sg
Tg +5 -10 Tg +5 +10
Tb +10 -5 Tb -10 -5
Trade 1 75
where S stands for ' Scarpia', T 'Tosca', Sg 'Scarpia in good faith',
Sh ' Scarpia in bad faith', Tg 'Tosca in good faith', etc. , and which
summarizes the calculation of the two interested parties.
We will see, by going over these sums again, that Rapoport's
matrix admits a foating of prices according to the nature of the
exchange: so for Tosca, the situation of shared good faith (Tg.Sg)
gives a score of + 5, one can infer from this that Tg (going to bed
with Scarpia) costs Tosca -5, and that Sg (Cavaradossi's life saved)
gains her + 1 0. But then, under the hypothesis (Th.Sg) where she
tricks Scarpia, if the prices remained the same, she would have a
proftable balance of + 1 5 (+ 1 0 for Cavaradossi and + 5 for having
escaped Scarpia's clutches). If Rapoport only counts to + 1 0, it is
because submitting to Scarpia is in fact disagreeable, but not
submitting to him is simply worthless. (Th.Sg) equals therefore:
0+ 1 0, and not + 5 + 1 0.
Is this relatively sophisticated evaluation really fair? This is
undecidable. What can be said is that the interest from a decision
(Sg. Th) for Tosca, assessed at + 1 0, is at the same time high enough
to make it interesting, and modest enough to leave Tosca hesitant
(+ 1 5 would arouse an immediate preference). Without doubt this
reasonable and at the same time proftable feature, obtained by
writing down 0 and not +5 for Tosca's successful escape from
Scarpia's bed, could also force Tosca to cheat. It is in any case this
same apparent moderation which, the other way round, will incite
Scarpia to have Cavaradossi shot while he's getting what he desires
from Tosca. And in fact he would be right, if it didn't enter the
young woman's mind (?), having been tricked twice, to kill him,
which is not accounted for in the matrices, and which is generally
excluded from the circle of partners in the politeia. If one of them
must be put to death, it is from the standpoint of the central zero that
it must be contemplated and defned: Socrates.
Here we see how the negotiation of investments on the pulsional
body-band produces the negotiating subject. This latter is not the
negotiator, but the unstable result of an interminable negotiation.
Neg-otium:* end of the leisurely fuidity of the infuxes. Should I
lend my intimacy to the cop's hands and genitals so as then to be able
to reserve it for my darling bandit? But suppose I do this, would I
not be conned anyway, a slut, since I will have paid for this
'Neg-olium: otiuln (L.) means 'leisure'; the prefx nes- indicates the 'end of the leisurely
fuidity . . .'. Negotiuln itself means 'trivial matter'. - til
176 Libidinal Economy
possi bili ty wi th exactly that whi ch must be cxorhitant for my lover?
How could he feel comfortable to have in hi s arms, under hi s lips,
his tillgers, hi s eyes, sheathi ng his penis, these bits of the body from
the very moment that - not that they had been shared wi th the cop
;1d given back to hi m li ke the left-overs of a previ ous feast, whi ch
would be in i tself rather pi ous - but from the moment that they had
been traded of( placed i n proporti on to jOllissan(c, my lover' s and
mine, fom the moment that I, i n short, prosti tuted myself How
would Tosca get round thi s uncertai nty? Shc i s a slllic((, that i s to say
a questi on, only
i/ls(far as she i s a prstitutc. Ifshe pretends to abandon
her charms while she i s with Scarpi a, i t is so as to keep Cavaradossi
ali ve and to keep herself ali ve for hi m. Suddenly the i ncomparable
i nvestments whi ch would connect together (so we i magine) certain
poi nts of the anonymous band with certai njollissall(cs, and assemble
the love of the young woman and the bandi t, these investments arc
suddenly di ssolved, removed, inst anti ated on nothing, on a perma
nence which is necessarily i mpossi ble si nce it is destroyed by the
s ame moment of release [rclhJc] whi ch operates it. To keep oneself
alive or reserve oneself fr a subsequent jOlliss<111(C i s to i nstanti ate
these intensities on the zero of a temporal conti nuum, and to fatten
them into money. When Klossowski speaks of an ' exorbi tance' of
the ' phantas m' (in his sense of the word) , he means precisely that t he
hi gh or l ow i ntensi ti es obtai ned by the connecting up of parti al
organs to the polymorphous perverse body which is caIled the
labyrinthine band, that these intensities arc disproporti onate, and
therefore that one should never be able to take advantage of havi ng
pai d too dearly for thei r scaring passage. Now Tosca really ought to
Jiscuunt and count up these intensities, no more no less than a
prostitute who with her profts has to bri ng up her kid in the
provinces . Tosca counts up i ncome and out goings, input and
output, and this i s already prostitution, whi ch makes her exi st as the
procuress of charges and discharges. Always the zero instance, that
of revenue: from the compound, the conti nuolls, another tense, the
tense of the subj ect.
From here we see the question: i s there any jou iss<I ICC outside this
keeping of accounts, beyond this i nstantiation on the zero? Lacan
says: jouissance i s 110, the interminable oscillation of desire between
the institution of a unitary subject (1) and its i nstantiation Oi the
non-being of reference (0). Is this not the same as what Klossowski
says, this time in terms of libidinal economy, when he implies that
Trade 177
extreme jouissance always brings this aporia with it: how does one
compare the incomparable? How does one evaluate the exorbitant?
Is it because the phantasm according to Klossowski, which is not at
all, like Freud's, a substitution formation, but a rigid, ineliminable
and repetitive plugging-in of partial organs, nevertheless draws its
force, not from all the libido, Eros and death together, fowing
there, in this channel, but rather from the vertiginous comparison
between the alleged being of a person (the victim or the torturer,
according to the case), that is to say of a unity with universalist
tendencies on the one hand, and on the other, the stupid drivelling
pettiness, the murderer of all that presents itself as a totality, from a
small singular pulsional dispositif And if this comparison is neces
sarily implied in jouissance, isn't it because this latter fnds itself
always already localized by the negotiatory thought which is about
to snatch up and understand as a relation, instead of being it, like an
incomparable affrmation? We must then say that Lydian prostitu
tion (which is also to say - with all the accuracy we can muster -
capital), which, just as Tosca is the burden [oids] of the unweighable
[hors-de-poids], is also all that can be said and felt at the same time
concerning jouissance. And abandon even the project of a libidinal
economy, instantiated on the one intensity at least: thinking being
money-making, he who thinks of matters of the passions is
necessarily a whore.
But let's go over this again, it's not so simple: in minting coin, the
Lydians, as we have said, did not content themselves with regulating
intensities on the meson of all mediations, they also prostituted their
daughters, and so they have vulvas, clitorises, breasts and their
nipples, full buttocks, hair, soprano and contralto cries of pleasure,
the smells of vaginal secretions, seed squeezed from skins, hairs
from the insides of arms and thighs, different. colours of hair, of
irises, different muscular textures, different bone structures,
different positions and couplings; they have all these enter into the
circle of transferable goods. They extend the quantity of parts of
the labyrinthine band that can be evaluated and exchanged. And at
the same time they not only remove the woman's (or at least
partially: the girl's) alleged nature, but they expose (rostituere) her to
all the denaturations that can be devised and carried out within the
merchant circle. But these denaturations are innumerable, since they
are all sanctioned in principle, on the sole condition, as we have said,
of isomorphism or proportionality between the goods exchanged.
17H Libidirwl Eronofll Y
I f such a pricing implies the devaluation of pieces of the libidinal
budy taken in their intense singularity, it can give rise to a sort of
new impetus in the circulation of the infuxes: for these latter fnd
themselves opening new routes on the immense band of bodies , and
therefore the polymorphism of the jouissilt connections amongst
them is increased, as is the libido's errancy. Imagine all these
unheard-of, erectile pieces of the surface where charges will be able
to accumulate in order to fee frolll a shock. I t is not enough to see
thelll condemned to the law of the minimax, we must also see what
Ilew concentrations of desires, even if this is in the one authorized
form of goods, they will be able to provoke and satirY.
And this authorized form of goods is not, moreover, as we might
think, a useful form. On the contrary, with this Lydian prostitution
concomitant with the monetary institution, we see that utility in its
current sense of use-value has simply no meaning, that it can be
determined only in relation to the rule of exchangeability, that the
Lydian daughter's body does not exist as a thing with a natural
predestination and therefore requiring a specifc use, but on the
contrary that it exists only as the empty negotiatory instance
supposed by the comparative evaluations of pulsional regions, like
the body-zero with its capitalist function, whereas its alleged use is
never anything but the blow-by-blow bargaining of
exchangeabilities between organs. We must not even say that this
body is then perverted or perverse, since it never is anything at all
(but it is this nothing), and therefore cannot be diverted from any
predetermined use. It is in fact concentrated, inclined to fall back
onto the empty instance of the mercantile permanence of intensities
which, here Or lhere, explode and die away like stars in the universe.
The prostitute in particular, that is to say the modern business
'woman', who is j
t as much a 'man' -and the same goes for him
has not had and must no longer have any rclation with fertility.
Should she occasionally produce children from the jouissances she
procures, then it would signify that she had received impregnating
semen into her womb; but she must be able to receive only money,
and this in her purse. For-frst argument-this money is convertible
on the market, the child is not necessarily so. It will be a long 'time
after' the Lydians before the child itself is incorporated into the
economic cycle, that it will cease to be perceived as a gift received
(from somewhere else), before the woman who consents to bear
children is paid (frst in the form of child benefts, soon as the right
Trade 179
to the withdrawal of labour, later, no doubt, simply a salary), and
therefore a long time before the mediatory void undertakes to
administer its own point of view, that of always annullable equiv
alences, the introduction and the circulation of new pieces of the
labyrinthine body-band in the circuit of trade, onto which child
bodies are concentrated. Oddly enough, it is the last in terms of its
date, for the most part still to come, while these are obviously the
most affrmative bodies and the most discontinuously perverse, the
most intense because the most uncommon in the exploration of
connections of jouissance. But an understandable delay, if we care
for their innocence, tr their inability to instantiate the present
emotion on a permanence which soon makes it possible to trade, if
we care for their libidinal non-subjectivity.
And the second argument: all the struggles we transsexual
libidinal economists know and lead, in order that, as was said,
women may have the free use of their bodies, in particular the free
decision to bear or not to bear children, are Lydian consequences.
How we love the Lydians and their daughters! In reality, it cannot be
a matter of free use, of any use, free or not. What we (and capital)
desire is that what is called a woman be made genuinely able to
beneft from commercial status, in its two aspects: every erection
and detumescence of whatever small area of the body-band that is
attributed to her, should frst of all be possible, and could then be
marketed. Therefore the abolition of erotic prohibitions; and her
release from the automatic nature of propagation.
At the same time the right to perversion and the right to trade.
That is to say the poiiteia. A child, yes, but then the object of a
market, the stake in an exchange which will in principle have to
annul the charge that the child represents, in lihidinal terms the
intensities of the affects that it is going to absorb. Therefore the
abolition of mothers and wives who have only ever been, since the
warrior-pederasts, the mothers of the children that were given
them. This is not a free use, since use, the category of a natural goal,
would keep, even if 'freely', the woman under the concept of this
reproductive finality, her liberty restricted to choosing the moment
of and the partner in impregnation. This is the extension of
exchangeability onto the alleged feminine body, that is to say the
injection of unknown pieces of the band into the exchange cycle and
marginal calculations. Those we call women can only attain full civil
rights by attaining sterility and polymorphous perversion, mone
tary properties. It is the very fgure of the circle in the process of
IH() Lihidillal EWllomy
extending itself to all the fragments of the labyrinthine band which
institutes abortive measures, because it wants all eradications.
[fthe woman's body ceases to be the earth or something like it, an
element, a receptacle, so correspondingly the partial prostitution of
penises would disappear. Masculinity must 110 longer be cleft as it is
in Greece, between its annulatory jOllissml{(' and its task of impreg
luting wombs. The symmetry of the abortive measures, freeing the
felllale body from its reputedly natural destination, is for the man
of the politl'ia (?), contemporaneous with the institution of sperm
banks: 'The freezing processes for human sperm in liquid nitrogen
today allow the preservation, for several years, of an important
production of spermatozoa whose impregnating capacity is nor
mal. 'x Several conditions must be met in order that your sperm
allow of concentration [soit cirCOlIl'l'Ylahlej: you must be less than 40
years old, you must be the fther of at least one normal child: the
quality side of the product. The practice of eugenics and selection is
denied, and it is thereby affirmed how pressing the analogy with
Nazi medical practices is. The familial, institutional side, to keep up
appearances: you must be married and must inform your wife. But
it is the logic of the product which will win the day, have no doubt
of it: its quality is inevitably independent of the wife's consent and
whether or not they go through the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, few
arc fond of it, it appears. Is this because the donor isn't paid? (And
why arc they not paid, if not because of the fear of the irresistible
attraction over many young unemployed people that the new
profession of sperm-donor would exert, and the excess stock of the
manufactured commodity?) No, it is said, the principal factors of
opposition arc: 'The masturbation necessary for the collection of
sperm, the adulterous character of the act (often therefore resented
by the wife), the fact of being barely aware of the development of
human semen.' As for the fear of adultery, the retort is immediate:
the donor should not be married. As for the anxiety (base, need it be
said?) of being a father without knowing it, this still derives from
the institution of the family in which father and mother see
themselves yielding all rights of property over their child as if it was
a product. Finally as for the last obstacle, we suggest that the sperm
bank makes sure of a preference for the participation of onanists: an
excellent illustration of how, in all likelihood, in the great trade of
capital, all the little dispositi, all the connections are marketable, to
the point that the dispositi which, for a very long time, as we know,
Trade 181
has not only everywhere endured the censures of morality, but has
also had to suffer the contempt of free spirits, indeed revolution
aries: to come by tossing off - might, precisely hy reason of the
irremediable sterility of its result (scattering sperm in the soil), become
the privileged means (because it is utterly indiferent, substitutable
and negotiable and can be postponed) of fertile propagation in the
mercantilist system. At the same time as the mothers disappear, we
are also rid of the fathers with their concern for sperm-revenue in
the form of their sons and daughters: this is what Lydian prostitu
tion will soon imply, extended to new regions of the libidinal band,
thanks to the expansion of capital. But we will not be free from the
great Zero, for all that, quite the contrary.
Outlet Payment
Does this zero take us into the vicinity of Sadean theses? Will the
force of the philosophe sceterat come to include this mechanism of the
circle and rotation? One might think so to hear him, in the pamphlet
inserted into Philosophic dans Ie boudoir, justify homicide in the name
of an entirely metamorphic conception of nature:
If the eternity of beings is impossible in nature, destruction
therefore becomes one of her laws. Now, if destruction is so
useful to her that she absolutely cannot do without it, and if she
cannot achieve her creations without drawing from these destruc
tive masses that spell her death, no more annihilation will be
recorded; what we call the end of the living animal will no longer
be a real end, but a simple transmutation, the basis of which is
perpetual motion, the real essence of matter and which all modern
philosophers admit as one of nature's primary laws. Death,
according to these irrefutable principles, is therefore no more
than a change of form, an imperceptible passage from one
existence to another, and this is what Pythagoras called
metempsychosis. Once these truths are acknowledged, I wonder
if one will ever be able to contend that destruction is a crime . . .
All that we are doing in indulging in destruction, is simply
carrying out a variation in forms. 9
Now let's ascertain how jouissance is instantiated on the circle. The
naturalism displayed by Sadc refers to Pythagoras and to
metempsychosis, and just as much again to the Tao and to Spinoza's
Lihiditlal Economy
!thics, we presulle. But beyond this naturalism, well known to
philosophers, which is a large step in the directioll of the dismantling
of the subject, of the unifed body, there remains or can still remain
a philosophy, there remains a means by which the intensities denied
individual subjects, Jre folded back onto an immense hyper-subject
which will be in general nothing other than the SJme central zero that
instantiates the peripheral jOllissallc('s of the citizens, Now Sa de
clearly says that the death penalty is an infamy because it is a law,
that is to say a regulation of intensities, whereas murder, if it is
passionate, would be no more a crime than is orgasm. And he
provides as a guide in this matter Louis XV's judgement upon
meeting an assassin: I am showillg YOII mercy, hut I will also show mercy
to lI'/wmclJcr should kill YOIl. This ll letempsychotic nature is also
therefre, or also wants to be, the pulsional band itself not the
reasonable and happy issue of irrational passions, but the circulation
of these passions and the coursings IlIlisc (II cOllrs J of intensities.
Here (11'0 models collide, two paradigms, since here we must
introduce tllloie zero, a second death, which is no longer that of the
centre, but that which will circulate on the circumference and twist,
crush and stretch it so as to bring it as near as possible to the
labyrinthine body-band. As long as the zero is situated only at the
centre, as long as the Greek organization of the meson forbids all
heteronomy and heterogeneity, but requires, as with trade, compen
sation for the pulsions and the constitution of the proper body as the
cash box for this compensation, one is in rationalization and
fiendship, deintensifed homosexuality, the regularization of the
tensions. Thus according to Bataille, in the margins of this
circurference certain kinds of chnnel "il1 be found \vhich point
towards the exterior, towards the alleged exteriority of the circle,
and by which the non-liquid intensities in the circle, the non-erectile
scraps of the body in the conditions of trade, will fnd an outlet.
This is an apparently common dispositi; sacrifce, prostitution,
psychoanalysis, arc a few amongst a hundred instances of it. In all
three cases, it was a matter of valves allowing for the evacuation -
under diverse names: the offering, 'having it off, transference - of
libidinal charges inexchangeable in the instituted circuits. In all three
cases, it is of course jouisslUlce, because it is deadly, because it is vain
expenditure, that it is a matter of leading astray, outside the cycle.
But let's direct our attention to a neglected but nevertheless very
interesting aspect of these institutions, that is, the linking up of the
Trade 183
medium of exchangeabilities (the goods which serve to pay the
sacrificer, the prostitute and the psychoanalyst) onto the otherwise
forbidden ful fl ment of this jouissance. In Indian sacrifce as i t is
described i n the ancient Vedic texts, 10 the daksina constitutes the
payment of the oHiciating priests. Co-present therefore, are the
offer as such, s mal l vegetabl e or animal fragments, which a fre
carries away to the skies , towards the nostrils of the divine - and the
species of sal ary, gol d, clothes , horses, occasionally women, which
the Brahmin receives from the sacrifcers. (It is often the case that
the payment of priests is much more important than the s acrifcial
offering.) Now this ritual involves this remarkabl e clause of
purifcation: that the sacrifcer, he who offers the sacrifce to the
divine, must not only be divested, for the duration of the s acrifce,
of his profane body, which he will regain only after the event, but
al so that this divestment consists of the dismemberment of this
body, the donor saying to each of the priests in turn: t o you I give
my arms, to you my bel l y, to you my eyes (or so I imagine). This
new body, very closely related to the aberrant band of the pul sions,
i s the body of jOlissalce, and its ' institution' makes the sacrifice
appear as jouissancr and the time of the sacrifce as the ' time' of
In the same way, of course, if we are still foll owing Bataille and
Caillois, the ingredients of the offering are consumed as pure loss
(here the Indians are real ly quite parsimonious ... ). Again it will
have to be said that the fre and its wreaths also belong to the effects
oflibidinal irreversibil i ty: for the ashes will not even be remains, and
if one wishes a fatal discharge without residue, then one will have to
burn - as the Indians (and the young people in secondary schools)
well know. Here therefore, no proft can be calculated; even if it is
discounted, i f the sacrifcer expects an effect of return from the
s acrifce, a divine grace. I f he calculates a proft, it is in an order
where calculation, according to this hypothesi s, cannot operate
because it is concerned with infnite quantities. It is no more a
calculation than Pascal's wager can be a true wager, because the
obj ects to be traded are incommensurable on either side. Pascal
didn't mean to say wager, he meant a paradox in the Kierkegaardian
sense, which i s something el se altogether, and once again makes
reference to an alterity of jouissance from which every reality of
revenue, of proft, i s in principle excluded.
But side by side with this useless torching, the Brahmin priest is
given a tip. And why is this ? Because he who gives without return,
tH4 Libidinal Economy
mllst pay. The time ofjouissancc is bought. The time of his ravaged,
broken, jubilant, sacred body is converted into cash (and it is
expensive). When the daksina has been paid, then he will recover his
organic, unified body, which will be able to start afresh in the closed
cycle of exchanges (cosmic this time, we are not ill Athens), and this
is why this payment is made under the sign of Amaya, the god of
mortal men. The payment returs him to the law, into the cycle, that
is to say into reality, which involves death, but the death of the
organic body, this death instantiated on the cosmic central zero,
which is the death of nothing but an episodic and evanescent subject,
and which in reality is only metabasis. Such is life.
So: by means of the offering, death through jouissancc, and by
means of the priest's salary, death through order. The same
immeasurable time of irreversibiblity is deduced as the labour time
of the priest. Where the sacrifcer risks going lip in smoke and not
coming back, lip into Nirvana, there, precisely, the men of the
central zero and their exchangeability withdraw their portion and
manufacture the general from the singular. Sacrifce is a crime of
passion, the daksina is the accepted price of its expiry in the circuit of
minima xed intensities. The zero of the release is plugged into the
zero of input-output matrices. Did it go up in smoke and fames? It
must be turned back into goods convertible into cash. It ejaculated?
It will impregnate.
From this point of view, it is the same plugging as controls
prostitution: the diversion of libidinal energy into perversejouissance
is set up by paying for the venal woman, who returns a part of it, in
the form of her fees, to the circuit of exchanges. Thus the
singularity of the phantasm and the irreversibility of the emotions it
procured fnd themselves paradoxically negotiated as the cost of a
lay. If the lay is an exchange [Si fa passe est une passe!!], it is because
the time opened up by the quartering of the client-sacrifcer body
closes up on itself, and so he must come back to himsel; return. They
simply undergo the annihilating incandescence. It has to stop, that is
to say recover, start again. It is this relief which is assured by the
price. One recovers fromjouissance-death. One has put aside, on the
hearth of the prostitutes' hotel, the banknotes that settle the brief,
mortal wucherie. * Such is the daksina's function, such, in the last
instance, is the analyst's fee.
But in the analytic situation, the relation is more complicated, the
solicitation of the passions will take place even further afeld than
'Coucherie: a 'one-night stand', occasional sexual commerce. - In
Trade 185
prostitution. Of course the analyst, like the prostitute, must not
enjoy, that's the rul e of the control of counter-transference, and
al so, like her, he neutralizes the other' s jouissance, he mediately
instantiates it on the zero of exchangeability, and this due to
payment. You will enj oy by investing your desire in me, you will
have me pl ay all the roles of the characters that you have been able to
invest (that is to say in fact al l the pieces of the body-band on which
certain connections were able to procure some intensity for your
Ego-zero, pieces you will call the names of those with which they
were associated, but they don' t really belong to anyone, for a person
is nobody) - it is no longer the psychoanalyst who says thi s, on the
contrary, he continues: from your couch then, you will be able to
enter horizontally onto the stage where these circul ations take place,
and carry me along there with you, endow me with the functions of
each in turn, of a great uncle, a young servant, a rich mother, a
younger sister and an ol d friend, and I will go along with al l of it, as
the Brahmin priest goes along with setting fre to these living things,
grasses , fowers, fesh and bones, the sacrifce. Yet while I go along
with all this, I will rid you of your connections, I will treat them as
symptoms , as phantas ms, as illusory telings, the same ones that
Socrates took it upon himself to extract from the heads of the
mistaken young Athenians, I will therefore deliver you from all
this . But what does ' deliver' mean here? It means to render the
singularity of investments convertible into cash. Not to limit the
moment ofjouissance thus invested to a lay, to a time of s acrifce, to a
session, but, al beit under the name of phantasma, day-dreams,
symptoms, rather to sei ze hol d of the circulations of infuxes and
passages of intensities in order to convert them i nto cash, thi s time
into that currency which i s no longer exchangeable goods, but
intelligible words. For things wil l have to be be said, from the great
twitching and awkward l abyrinth there must issue a comprehensible
voice, in the anal yst' s offce unpredictable violences of pulsional
excursions must give way, little by little, repeatedly, from session to
session, sacrifce to s acrifice, to the return.
Now it is obvious that this so-called ' working through' , which is
inevitably a l abour of the institution of an instance to which to refer
the pulsional metamorphoses, and which in its turn will be ahle to
transport them as words and even as amiable feelings, an instance
which is exactly the same whether one calls it individual , or Ego, or
social being, or whether on the contrary one insists on its nullity, its
Li hidi,wl EW'lOmy
absence, i ts zero quality - i t i s clear that this 1I'orkillg through is
di ft'rent from either prostitution or the sacrifice. The sessi on is
i ndeed a sacrificial ofring and a prostitutive setticment, but it lets
political economy penetrate, if I may say so, still much further than
they do, into the l i bidinal, since it is the affect itself that it wants to
extract from the labyrinthine hody-band and place on the circle of
exchangeabilities. Now in Freud, the affect is well and truly the
name bore by energy itself in its investments and displacements
when it operates on 'representati ons' . Should Dora cough, should
she have an asthma attack, Freud desires that she say what she is
(OI I. lhill.\, and consequently say what she is {hoking back; and how will
he be able to recognize that she has said it? (I n this case, moreover, he
was unable to recognize it, that is, in relation to his own desire to
speak. ) He wil l recognize the wish that this oral or respiratory
symptom should be instantiable on genitali ty, that is simply to say
on the reproductive body. Therefore not only speaking of inten
sities and thus beating them back onto the currency of words, but
refrring them to the organic body, pinpoi nting them on the
cartography of the physiology and the chemistry which is also that
of propagati on. Not only to pretend to acknoll'lc{le Dora' s Ego-zero
which M. K. forced on her against her will in the closed shop, that is
to say to exchange this connection of a curiously intense terror, this
stasis where fuxes passed and were immediately and completely
dissipated and maintained in labyrinthine 'time', but further to
propound the hypothesis that her asthma, her cough, her oral and
respiratory symptoms proceed from a displacement of the sensation
of oppression experienced by the young girl because of the erect sex
of M. K. pressed against her stomach while he pulled her t o him,
displacement in the direction of the thorax and the respiratory
system: pressed-oppressed, which conversely implies that the
respiratory (or oral) region may only be invested, according to
Freud, by substitl/ tion, and consequently that the only true intensity is
genital. Such is the other meaning, almost proper, to be given to the
words to deliucr [ I((olcherl . 1 2 One could take the doctrine of stages
and fnd the same closing down; were one to multiply these stages,
were one to add the 'mirror stage' , the 'breathing stage', it still
remains the case that it is at the very end, when the so-called ' partial'
pulsions are fnally captured and drawn together under the sign of
genitality, that everything works, that II ua . . .
There is a direct correlation between the conversion of the time of
'dereality' into cash, of the time consccrated to the 'real' at the time of
Trade 1 87
the session, and on the other hand the instantiation by means of
speech of al l the partialities - the advances of perverse, divergent
infuxes , unforeseen blockages of some corner of the libidinal
surface - on the body of genitality, that is to say, of reproduction.
This correlation enables us to see the proximity and the distance of
the two cycl es, that of money and that of the propagation of the
species . If one pays the analyst, it is because in the session there is a
risk of being carried away into jouissance-death without return,
which is already that which the ritual sacrifce of the Indians, and in
general every paying of the s acrifcer, guards against; if one pays in
money, in cash, it i s because one is in a monetary system; fnally, if
one also pays i n words, i t is because here the sacrifice obeys the
complex dispositi of Judai sm and scientificity: a scientificity which
has it that all of language is thought in the category of
exchangeability, or that all things, including affects, pulsions ,
displacements, charge trips , discharges of loss and tutti quanti are
supposed to be thinkable in the category oflanguage: we have some
good examples of this in contemporary philosophical and scientific
literature, one need only stoop to gather them up; but Judais m, by
contrast, which has i t that words are inportant onl y on condition that
they do not operate as signifcations , but as gifts, not as exchange
able units, but as courses on the surface of language, draining the
fuctuating liquidities of affects ; rather therefore as prayer than as
reason. There are the two dispositif in analysis, the lead being given
now to the side of neutralizable signs, now to the side of emotional
debt. But as far as the body is concerned, in any case, it is annulled as
the immense crumpled band, and instituted as the bag of organs,
each of which is entirely susceptible to falling ill (to being disrupted
by causes, exteriorities) whereas all the erectility of this body is
supposed to be fxed on vaginas and penises . We are poles apart from
the prostitute' s body, which is a negotiating body, capable of
annulling all the clientele' s perversions into money. Here, in the
analysis , the whore is the analyst (in that he gets paid to absorb the
patient' s inexchangeable jouissance, and also to transform it into a
concept) , and the patient is not only his client, he is also his pupil, if
the educator-analyst wants to obtain a ' normal ' , sexed body from
the client. A courtesan-pedagogue, a venal Moses . So that in analysis
the connecting up of intensities onto the circuit of exchanges in
reality takes place three times : the frst when the patient pays to
reactivate jouissance, so as to metamorphose it into money; the
l HH Libidinal Economy
second when he speaks or attempts to speak desire, so as to commute
it into concepts; the third when in this case a labour of solicitation
and instantiation on the sex is supposed to come to institute a normal
body, where the libido will be sex and sex genitality, that is the
promise of reproduction.
Wil r ofSil flf, Curm/(y (f Dcath: Mercalltilist Pol itics
The instantiation of intensity on the circle of equivalences gives a
frst, approximate idea of what jOlliSSml(C in capital might be. To
what extent it has to do with money as a li bidinal fragment or
pulsional force, according to its complexity or rather according to a
primary and manifest dissimulatioN, we would choose to discer
through the magnifying glass of mercaNtilist politics in the classical
age, embodied by the couple Louis XIV-Colbert. 1 . l Here we capture
a remarkable dispositifof double instantiation, which allows us at the
same time to confrm the impression that the mercantilist economy
of whi ch Marx speaks as the premisses of capitalist economy i s a
sort of unstable entity, almost impossible, a construction from a
theoretical model; and to grasp that what is lacking in the approach
of the economist or even the historian of mercantilism is precisely
any consideration of another mode of the enjoyment [jollissall(e] of
money and commodities than what we currently call inteYest.
Take this letter from Colbert to the King: 1 4
. . . The good state of Your Majesty' s fnanccs and thc augmenta
tion of his revenues consists in incrcasing by all available means
the amount of silver converted into money which is continually
circuiating in the reaim, and in keepmg m the provmces thc cxact
proportion of this money that they require . . . augmcnting the
silver in public commerce by drawing it from the countries from
whence it comes, retaining it within thc realm by preventing it
from leaving, and by giving men the means to draw a proft from
it. Since the greatness and strength of the State and the Magnif
cence of the King are composed from these three points, the
expenditures for which great revcnucs provide the opportunity
render State and King all the grcater, bccause they deplete the
revenues of all neighbouring States at the same time. In view of
the fact of having just one constant quantity of silver circulating
in all Europe, augmented from time to time by that which comes
from the West Indies, it is certain and demonstrable that if therc
Trade 1 89
are only 1 50 mill ion pounds of silver in public circulation, one can
onl y succeed in augmenting it by 20, 30 and 50 millions at the same
time as one removes the same quantity from neighbouring States
. . . I entreat Your Maj esty to permit me to tell him that since he
took on the administration of fnances, he has undertaken a war
of silver agains t all the States of Europe. He has al ready
conquered Spai n, Germany, Italy and England, which he has
thrown into very great poverty and destitution, and has grown
rich from their spoi l s, which have given him the means to
perform such great things as he has done in the past and s till does
every day. Only Holland s till remains fghting with great forces :
her northern trade . . . that in the East Indies . . . that in the
Levant . . . that i n the West Indies . . . her factories, her trade in
Cadiz, Guinea and an infnity of others in which all her strength
consists and resides. Your Maj esty has formed companies which,
like armi es, attack them on all fronts . . . The factori es, the canal
for the transnavigation of seas and so many other new develop
ments as Your Maj esty has created, are so many reserve corps
which Your Maj esty created and drew out of nothing in order
better to perform their duty ill this war . . . The sensible fruit of
the succes s of all these things would be that by drawing, by means
of trade, a very great quantity of silver into his real m, not only
would he soon manage to reestablsh those proportions which
must exist between the silver in currency in trade, and the
taxations which are paid by the people, but he could even augment
each of them, in such a way that his revenues would increase and
he would put hi s peoples i n a powerful position to assist hi m more
consi derably in the event of war or some other necessity . . .
A declaration which says everything. First, money; i t has two
functions, or rather two posi tions : it is a means of payment, of the
discharge of debts, Aristotle' s tmisma. The king' s subj ects require
it to pay off their taxes, the realm itself in order to be free from
foreign creditors , should it happen to have any. There appears to
correspond to this function of money a new importance accorded to
the production of commodities . These are not objects received
from nature ( , primary' industry) , but manufctured from received
obj ects, and thereby bearing the same arbitrary, human mark as does
the monetary instrument. Nevertheless, no more than in ancient
Greece, 1 5 they are considered here only under the aspect of the
labour that they contain, like products; if they interest Col bert, it is
1 90 Libidinal Economy
as engines of war, as means to the destructioll of freign cl icllts. One
can acquit oneself with money by payment; one must, it seems, be
able to acquit oneself with commodities, by barter or compensation
for the balance of foreign trade - but no, the cOlll llodity will not
essentially have this status, no more than money resolves itself in its
role of the balancing of debts.
Money is also, of course, something precious, a treasure, which
marks 'the greatness and strength of the State and the Magnifcence
of the King' . It is in this wa y that mercantilism is always associated
with metal ism - Colbert will hunt down the bullionists, manufac
turers of impure money, seeming wealth; let' s not speak of
fduciary forms of money - which is equally associated with
quantitat ivism, a strange doctrine to us, which states that in order to
be rich one must accumulate as much money as possihle; which means
only if the latter is kept itself as a treasure. This position of silver is
what will disappear in the extension and the sophistication of
moder fduciary money, and ultimately in the complete separation
of exchange rates with regard to the traditional standard of
reference, gold.
The other characteristic of Colbert's political economy is that it
implies that monetary wealth is a fnite quantity: ' Having just one
constant quantity of silver circulating in all Europe. ' This is
interpreted according to its most brutal political effect in another
note by Colbert, where he concludes a small evaluation of the profts
made by the Dutch from their quasi-monopoly in maritime trade in
the following terms: 'On this supposition, it is easy to conclude that
insofar as we are able to reduce the gains made by the Dutch over the
king's subjects and the consumption of the commodities which they
bring us, we will increase the silver in the form of money which
must enter into the realm by means of our necessary commodities in
like proportion, and will also increase the strength, the greatness and
the abundance of the State. ' 1 6 This is the same position that in games
theory is called a zero Sll game: 17 every gain by one party is paid for
by the adversary' s loss, as opposed to a non-zero sum game where
the possibility is given of a simultaneous gain by both partners.
Let us recall that the games theorists have established that if the
partners in a zero sum game have a 'rational' politics, they would
communicate between one another all information concerning their
intentions (a game of complete information), and would thus
achieve the best result that can reasonably be expected in such a
Trade 191
game, which is the minimax, or the mInImum of compossibl e
maximums. In the case of Tasca, 18 we see that if Tosca and Scarpia
had ' understood' each other, they would each have been able to
obtain a gain of fve points. Such is the general i dea of the dialogue,
a perfectly mercantilist idea, it appears, since i t aims to equalize both
partners' chances of a gain and to share out in an egalitarian fashion,
at the end of the game, the quantity of wealth or pleasure to be
distributed between them. A politics of the minimax implies that on
both sides the stakes are comparable, the outlays commensurable,
and even the pl ayers are ultimately permutable: apparentl y we are
steeped in the system (or the phantasy) of generalized equivalence,
where intensities arc eroded in the interests of the quantities
instantiated on an arbitrary unity of reference, which, however, is
accepted by each partner. And it is doubtless naIve, or rather
perverse, of games theorists to believe that there docs in fact exist such
an organic body of reference, a social body, a rational sol i darity, a
mediator (which of course embodies itself and its paymaster) to
which it is in the interests of each partner to appeal in order to be certain
of obtaini ng the best compossible resul t . As if the passi on for the
best incompossible resul t, impl ying, that i s, the destruction of the
partner and the end of al l games, were not al so a general pathos of
the desire to play.
The exchangeability of the players themselves , presupposed by a
' rational ' politics and marked by changes of spatial or temporal
position in competitive sports or social games, implies in turn the
recurrence, infnite in principle, of the ' parties'. The ' reasonable'
view of exchange is that it is interminable, that the game may be
endlessly pl ayed. This i s why i t is inappropriate to annihilate the
adversary, since he is a partner, without whom the game i s not
possible. There is therefore a concern for the preservation of the
poles of the exchange which is the characteristic specifc to trade in
general , and which appears to be necessarily associated with the
mercantilist transaction. Here money and the commodity are not
things, but concretions of exchangist relations , and are al so treated
as such.
Now what Colbert says to his king i s quite the reverse of this: the
quantity of metal l ic money which is ' circulating in all Europe' being
constant, and this gold being wealth itself, in order that the king
grow richer, he must sei ze the maximum of thi s gol d. This is to
condemn the partner to die, in the long or short term. It i s to count
1< Lihidirlal Economy
the ti me of trade not up to infni ty, but by l i miting it to the moment
when all the gold in Europe is in Versail l es . And it is to identify gold
with the traditional form of wealth, with the earth. To draw gol d
into the frontiers of the realm i s the same thing as to extend the
frontiers up to the sources of gol d. The earth being round, the
conquest must in principl e cl ose up on itsel C the armi es progressing
eastward ending up meeting those marching wl' stward, and in this
closure, establishing the empire of the worl d. Locking gol d up
within the li mits of the realm is for Col bert the same operation
relativized: it is the earth-gol d or the gol den earth which must come
to complete its movement in the king' s cots . In the frst case, the
real m is displaced over the earth, envelops it and becomes its coffer,
in the second the gold which was displaced will become incarcerated
in the real m.
That i t i s indeed conquest which is in question in mercanti li s m,
Colbert does nothing t o hi de. 'The adminis tration of fnances I is I a
war of sil ver', he says, and in this war French commercial compani es
are ' like armies ' assailing the Dutch companies ; factories and large
structures are 'so many reserve corps' , kept on the alert behind the
lines . The real m is a camp, the frontiers a front. Protective customs
rates arc the out works that protect the French fortress .
As for the principle of this war, it rests on the fancy that the
partner is in a state of inferiority, of need. We see then that this idea
of need which will make its fortune in economic and social thought,
including Marx's , is simply the organici st metaphor of the irrevers
ible and hierarchical dependence of one party on the centre. 'It is the
only monarchy that can do wi thout all its neighbours', affrms La
Gomberdiere; the king of France, advises Laffemas , must be
powerful , ' so that our neighbours cannot do without us'. 'The real m
has no need to borrow anything from its neighbours', says
Montchretien, 'for France alone can do without all that it has of the
nei ghbouring lands, just as all nei ghbouring lands cannot do without
her. ' And La Jonchere: 'The realm can do wi thout all forms of
foreign Commerce, but the Foreigners cannot do without her
Wines, Wheat, Salts, etc. ' I ' In consequence, the terms of the
exchange will never fail to be al ways unfavourable to them.
Especially if France were to add t o these natural , given advantages
and this is what Colbert is working towards - those which result
from the creation of infrastructures and manufacturing industries .
She will always be able to sell without huying. She will be able to tax,
Trade 193
demand gold, and in quantity, for payment. And this is how it will
return to and remain in the realm.
Now, to continue the rapid description of this remarkable pol itical
libidinal economic dispositi one wonders what this gold is for. It is for
almost nothing, it is not mainly reinvested, but consumed in feasts,
representations and expenditures of prestige. Versailles, that is to
say the stage or the altar of the realm, is made of this gold, and this is
where wealth is dissipated, destroyed, treasure squandered in
jouissal1ce. There is nothing less astonishing than this combination of
the commodity, money and manufacture, with vain expenditure.
The mercantilist body is a 'monster', part value to maintain, part
gold to destroy; part intelligence, part stupidity, like a centaur. And
the commodity in mercantilism is, as far as it goes, a being with a
triple function: concretion of exchangist relations, the weapon of a
war of silver, means of a ruinous hoarding. At the centre of this
fortress of protective rates, customs and edicts, there reigns not the
nothingness, the hub of capital or the sober civitas which
redistributes surplus-values or annuls exchanges in endless cycles,
but a fre which embraces them and fuels the blaze of heavenly glory
of the king and his court.
To take the libidinal measure of the dispositi, let' s imagine the
four libertine masters of Ol1 e Hundred a/d TWeIty Days oj Sodom
enjoying not only the land rents that Sade supposes them to have,
but also mercantilist revenues. Let's imagine that some Colberts,
some assistants (there is necessarily here a redistribution of powers
between two instances since there are two poles of jouissal1ce) , are
busy waging wars of silver in some neighbouring town (Paris),
trading, setting up a fscal and military administration whose
function of course remains essentially pillage, but through com
mercial bartering. Imagine additionally that Versailles is the chateau
in 120 Days; that the king and court are these libertines (slightly more
hierarchical) who withdraw to it and stand apart from their sources
of revenue, the town and the country, establishing the chateau of
pleasure as a place where all exchanges and contributions fow
without return; imagine that the provincial populations which form
France are these same peasants from whom Sade's libertines extract
their rents at the price of unbearable miseries; and moreover that the
manufacturers, ship-owners, bankers, the entrepreneurs who
arouse Colbert's zeal have no other function when selling their
merchandise than to carry further, to lead further afeld, to stretch
1 94 Libidinal Eco/lomy
to breaking point the pleasures on the Versailks stage. Arc the
money and the cOlllmodity invested fr themselves in this disposit!
Perhaps, one will say, by those called the hourgeoisie, the mJl1ufac
turers and tradesmen; certainly not by the court, for whom they arc
only means ofjouissallce. But no, it is rather the opposite which must
be said: the mercantilists by definition never invest the object for
itself, but only for its value, that is to say its power of extCsion and
interest, these mercantilists being Louis XI V and the Creat Powers
who, just because they restlessly destroy coml1lodities and money,
intensely 'love' the frst and have to make the second into a
perishable thing: which is only a paradox in capital's eyes, not for the
extravagant libido.
What is happening then, in terms of intmsities' Klossowski
shows that the libertines' jouissance requires not only the immediate,
so to speak, body of their victims, but the larger and indeterminate
body of peasants which their stewards exploit: it is not advisable to
establish either a metaphor or an analogy betweCll the object of
perverse exactions and that of the worst social exploitations, it is
really a matter ofthe same body, the body of reference, indispensable
to despotic Sadeanjoll issml (( a body to destroy, thus very similar to
that formed by the victims inside the chateau which is, in relation to
the external body of the peasants, at the same time as whatever one
of its parts and as its rcprescrtativc on the stage of pleasures. We are
going to go back over this cutting-up of theatricality which is so
important here, France as a theatre, the king's subjects as the
spectators whose contributions fnance the show, the Court as a
stage where the courtesans act out their tragedy. But frst add to this
grey body of French peasants , incar cerdlcd within the theatre waiis
of the royal and stately offce of taxes, the still more distant body of
the Foreigners, who are still peasants, but who begin to put pressure
on the commercial companies and the one-sided contracts imposed
by Colbert's agents, through many intermediaries, on their masters.
The Versailles libertines mlst have ' all the wealth in circulation in
Europe', and it is therefore from the grey body of the soil of all
Europe that Colbert will draw, until it is rendered as bloodless and
pale as its pennant, the gold which he collects by means of the
weapons of trade.
Here trade serves to extend the range of the body to destroy, the
referential instance of a jouissance which has its model in Sade. If it is
true that pleasure has no price, the torturing and putting to death of
Trade 195
all Europe by the silver wars is not too expensive to sustain the glory
of the king, that is to say his jouissance. Here we need the imagination
of afnite body, of an economic body, circumscribed like an organic
body, for it is on this condition that pleasure will be combined with
the destruction it needs in order to be intensifed. How would one
destroy an infinite body? The apparently technical hypothesis
ofered by Colbert of a constant quantity of money in Europe (a
hypothesis which is certainly congruent with the economic 'stagna
tion' or 'contraction' of the years 1 680-1 700) is to be attributed to
the mercantilist libido. For this latter, and it is a paradox to our
capitalist eyes, makes use of trade not for proft-making, but for
extravagance. We should not understand the down-curve in com
modity-traffcking or in the entry of American gold and silver into
Seville between 1 600 and 1 650, or those of the manufacture of silks
and fustians or of sheets in northern towns during the last quarter of
the seventeenth century, as causes of the mercantilist dispositi. They
are pieces of it. Mercantilist desire requires what we call stagnation
or shortage, but which is for it the condition of a surplus-jouissance.
An infnite economic body opens the perspective of an interminable
and divisible growth, it forbids in principle the comparatively dark
pleasure which Colbert promises to his master, the same as was
involved in the ancient Persian denomination of the king of kings.
Hume said that jealousy is at the centre of mercantilist politics and
economics, and through the exposition of these 'contradictory'
effects that he hoped to demonstrate the error in it. If in fact a lot of
gold fows into one country to the detriment of others, he will say,
the former will come to increase its prices, its imports will grow and
its exports fall. On the contrary, 'suppose four-ffhs of all the
money in Great Britain to be annihilated in one night . . . what
would be the consequence? Must not the price of all labour and
commodities rise in proportion . . . ? What nation could then
dispute with us in any foreign market . . . ? In how little time,
therefore, must this bring back the money which we had lost, and
raise us to the level of all the neighbouring nations ?'20 The reasoning
is none too convincing, but the love of balance is obvious in it, in
which we will also recognize Lavoisier's pathos and the generalized
passion for negotiatory annulment. As for the 'basis' , one might as
well try to convince the four libertines that their crimes are leading
them to ruin, and that it is in their interests, in the interest of their
survival, to retur in some way the wealth which they extracted
Lihidilai Ecoll o/n y
fom the popul ace fom whom they drew a revenll e. One mi ght as
wel l recommend to perversi on that i t become more democrati c and
egal i tari an wi t h regard to i ts obj ects . In t rut h t he body of Europe
became, i n Hume' s epoch, at l east for t he Engl i sh, a body of
capi tal i zati on endowed wi t h t he properti es of the jOli issall(C, or
scucYai jouissat1{cs, whi ch capi t al requi res; for Col bert i t was al so an
enjoyi ng ljoltissif body, but i n quite another way.
The equi l i bri um of nati onal trade bal ances, that i s t o say t he l aw
of t he zero, i s not taken i nto consi derati on here. Desi re docs not
i ndi cate i ts madness here by t aki ng upon i tsel f condi ti ons of
i nfni t y, money does not operate here as a aedit potenti al [puissancc] ,
the capaci ty offered to the partner to ll tiripatc hi s purchases of
goods or services; i nstead of credi t, j eal ousy. Li ke t hat of t he j eal ous
person, the mercanti l i st' s t i me i s counted backwards: ' Onl y Hol \ and
sti l l remai ns fi ghti ng wi th great forces . . . ' , and i t ends up i n the
pal l or of the European body drai ned of i ts strength Ipl t iS(cl and i n
the master of Versai l les ' cri mson t umescence. And the time of this
master i s itself counted to dcath: ' After me, the del uge' ; not a
perpetual tumescence, pl easure is not sought in the intensi ty of a
permanence, but in the i ntensi t y of a consumpti on. The capi tal i st (as
previ ousl y Hume and hi s friend A. Smi t h used to) sees Europe as a
hody of i nvestment whi ch bri ngs in a proft, Col bert and hi s master
see it as a body of sumptuousness which exhausts i tsel f; no wc at al \ ,
but t he lIther dichotomy. An organi c reference i s as necessary t o
j ealousy as i t i s to perversi on, according to Klossowski; it i s a l i fe,
something to ki l l . ' Never in hi story' , writes Keynes, ' was there a
method devi sed of such eHcacy for setting each country' s advan
tage at variance W lll! its neighbours' as the international gol d
standard. ' 21 The gold-standard i s what remains of the ,olden body,
the organic body of reference for mercantili sm, right up until the
age of fduciary currency. The gol d-standard is the hall mark of
j ealousy. The money of genuine capitalism i s envious, i t is not
enviabl e; i n i ts creditory function i t is nothi ng but permission to set
up and to proft; and its ti me i s not counted backwards, on the
contrary, it i s ceaselessly reproduced by an interminable stimulation
of debts. The real money of capital, far from being a treasure, a
thing of the earth, is a relation, a power rclation certainly, since i t
must have t he capacity to gitlc t he right t o anticipate when granting
credit, and have the capacity t o proft from i t by proving itself
creditworthy; but also a relation of the separation of desire from
Trade 1 97
itself an inhibition and a new impetus of libidinal energies , the
schema of which we will attempt to draw up later on. The money of
capital is in one sense only a time given and taken back, anticipated
and delayed. Mercantilist money is an erotic and lethal thing.
Let ' s return to t he mercantilist theatre. Perhaps i t s energetic
analysis would allow i t the better to examine this strange jealousy,
which, as we have seen, has no relation to interest, whether clearly or
mis-understood. I f i t is true that classical theatre requires not one
limit, but two, the theatre enclosure frst, and then the stage-setting,
the one in which representation takes place, which envelops the
stage/auditorium whole, and the other within which the space of the
play is restricted, we will see that mercantilist space i s of the same
confguration. The customs barrier delimits the entry to the theatre
which is the real m: the spectators in fact are the king' s subjects ,
acting the audience. On the interior of the French space, the Court
circumscribes another limit, that of its own stage, where the Great
Powers are the actors . The congruence of the theatrical dispositif
which then gives way to classical French tragedy, with the political
economy of mercantili sm, is certain.
However, the double-limit organization is not at all unique to
mercantilist space. Ancient Greece provides a good model of it: the
limit of citizenship, and on the interior, the limit of the political
sphere, the centre (meson) where the orator comes to speak of what
has been done and what is going to take place, and through whom
therefore the city comes to be represented. This schema is only
slightly diferent from the tragic and comic theatre. But the Greek
political stage i s not the monarchic stage, insofar as this is
structurally empty. Every citizen can in principle stand there and
speak, and so become the mirror of the city, its refection.
Associated with this republican constitution is quite another regula
tion of destruction: this only ever takes place beyond the city limits ,
by means of the war against enemies or rebel allies, and also by
means of i mperiali sm against the allies . Who destroys here? Not the
king, but the warriors' collective. It is just the power (Macht) which
drives such a city to consume its strengths and riches in wars and
conquests of prestige, as we say. But this desire is not instantiated on
a despotic fgure circumscribing a second closure (the Versailles
stage) internal to the political sphere (the nation, the city) ; every
citizen is gripped by it. If, however, the second stage exists even in
republics, it is in order to distinguish a treasure of words rather than
198 Li bidinal Economy
of riches. If the exclusivity proper to the determination of power
and representation fxes its bar anywhere, it is there, on the skin of
language rather than on that of goods; the tribunal soon ceases to be
an empty and accessible milieu, it becomes the theatre where words
are amassed and squandered, procuring prestige. It is not enough to
see in the rhetoricians' and sophists' linguistic tedl l l e the symptom of
a professionalism affecting speech, it must also be considered as the
acquisition and use of an cmmciatory treaSli re giving privileged access
to the stage of assemblies, simply because these statements are
rrcdi (ta)ble: the republican tribunal would be a stage where one
expends language as pure prestige and loss. As in mercantilism, this
does not preclude, but implies, the generalization of commerce (the
commerce of words); but, as in mercantilism, circubtion, linguistic
in this case, must, under the cover of discharging the obligations
contracted in an egalitarian fashion among fellow citizens, allow
kings, rhetoricians and sophists to speak, so as to ruin their partners'
oratorical credit and ensure their exclusive ownership, necessarily
consumptive from this point on, of the treasure of speech.
Cbssical French mercantilism witnessed another generalization
of trade, which it begins to extend to labour by multiplying the
manufacturing industries (this is still not in the spirit of the
accumulation of capital, but of war through commerce); mean
while at the exchange centre a place without reciprocity is erected,
which monopolizes and destroys surplus-values. This despotic state
thus requires the mobilization of an important part of the energy at
its disposal, for the purposes of constituting the double-closure, and'
in order to make the impulsional supplements captured outside fow
towards the centre and to have them disappear in it. The ' poiiticai '
space which we know, with its bulimic and narcissistic capital, and
its spider' s web of police and 'courts', was organized by mercantil
ism: a profoundly warlike and pillaging empire, where labour and
economic enterprise are only ever real or potential weapons in the
hands of the despot, where production does not give rise to credit,
but to the prince's whim.
Europe, then, is this twin-bodied monster: a mercantilist body,
that is, an exchangist circle formed by the concentration of all the
intensities of which the great skin is capable, and by their annulment
in the medium of the general equivalent; but it is, at the same time, a
golden body, a Barbary Coast, a German, Italian, or English coast to
be conquered, looted, ruined. A trading body and a victim body,
Trade 199
made up of clients who are also barbarians committed to despoil
ment and destruction. One sells them something, one loots their
gold. The protectionist barrier delimits what is barbarian from what
is French, who is the client to be annihilated and who is the subject to
be preserved. It allows the fltration of the exporting of com
modities regarded as of no use to the subjects, and the importing of
metallic treasures from wars and feasts. I t lets out what the Beasts
from the outside need in order to survive, these Beasts who need
France and whom France comfortably ' does without ' ; ' in
exchange' , it lets in the materials of glory and destruction, the
exorbitant, the inexchangeable.
At the moment when commerce begins to institute the reign of
the law of equivalences and the minimax, mercantilist politics
reroutes its function in an impossible formula: buy your survival
from me, says Colbert to the Foreigner, but at the cost ofl osing all
your means of purchasing, and I will represent your agony from
here. On the great skin the pulsions continue to run; but a fux of
exports only brings to the addressee regions the constraint of having
to return a fow of imports of incommensurable intensity. Thus an
'exterior' is formed on the other side of the customs barriers whose
only role is to be emptied into an ' interi or' , an enormous transfer of
the energies current on the ambiguous body of Europe, fuelling the
incandescence of the Versailles feasts. And at the same time as it is
emptied there, it represents itself in self-destruction, since it is never
exhausted by the movement of commerce. The apparently aberrant
consumption of treasures on the stage of the Court represents the
destruction ofthe Foreigner. If there are two limits, and not one, in this
theatricality, it is because the frst determines what on the exterior
suffers war and the destruction of silver, the victim of despotic
passion, the golden body of backward countries, the barbaric third
world, and the second what on the interior repeats this annihilation
of riches in a ritual fashion: the monarch and his court represent and
are represented by, in the sacred space of the Centre, the deadly
force [uissance] which ravages the profane space of the barbaric
Periphery. Such is the j ealousy of the despotism which fuels
mercantilism, which this l atter could not content itself with taking,
and destroying, but had instead to present in itself what it
annihilated on the outside.
The entire West will not cease, in its imperialistic conquests, to
import, that is to sa y to repeat on its own body, the ' surplus' of which
( ) ( ) Libidinal icoII OIll Y
it depri ves the body of the earth. But thi s surpl us onl y appears
superfl uous i nsofar as i t has been cal cul ated i n mercanti l i st terms ,
measured by an a l leged mi ni mum vailt of l i fe, reckoned up in
al l eged rlt'Cds, i nsofar, then, as the body of the earth covered wi th
ba rbari c Forei gners which ' one can do wi thout' has entered into
commerci al contact wi th the Europeans . The l i bi di nal band coi ls up
Oi l i tsel f, wi th the i ncl usi on, by meal ls of substi tution, of what thi s
cl osure excl udes. The retur of the repressed, i f you l i ke: the
Barbari an i s the ki ng. But thi s must not be understood as perpetua l
substituti on for a lack (where i s the l ack i n a l l this?) , but a s
sOI1lethi ng fol l owi ng the recurrell ce of the death dri ves ri ght i n the
1 1 1 i dst of the organic State i n the process of defni ng i tsel f erotical l y.
Hllce t he predomi nance of t he tragic and of t he Terror, whi ch wi l l
fol l ow afterwards , on the central stage.
Money becomes the general equi valent for renderi ng the outside
peoples, thei r ri ches ( ' products ' ) , and thei r poverty ( ' needs ' ) ,
commensurabl e wi th the goods whi ch they buy. And as sllch, it i s of
course / l othing other than the concentratory central zero, nothing
other than the fnal zero of every mercantile cycl e. It thus determines
priccs because i t determines the calculable relati ons between quan
ti ti es, offers and demands for goods . Money is therefore exhibi ted
as ratio, number. But mercanti l i sm betrays one of its secrets, or
rather publishes it: for si nce it i s not onl y an instrument of Eros
contributing to the formation of the vi abl e body of the European,
indeed the gl obal , market, but also a weapon of envy, a means of
destruction and exhaustion of this very body that i t constitutes, i t is
the suggestion of other surfaces. Not onl y the land of Europe
united and closed up on Itseif by the l aw of exchanges ; but ai so
scattered fragments , pi eces of people sufferi ng the vampire's bi te,
so the li beral critique of mercanti l i sm will say; something more than
the equi valent i s dissi mulated i n the vampi re, i t is al ready capi tal, the
Marxist-Keynesian critique will s ay. We say: in the exchangeable
sign, the tensor - and vice versa. I n power [poll l'oir] , force
ruissance] , and vice versa. Now, what remai ns of this dissi mulation
(al most completely blatant) of mercantilist money, in capitali s m?
Coitus Reservatus
' Expenditures' are far from being, as we have seen, absolute
liberations from the reproductive cycle: the outpourings of pulsio
nal intensities pouring towards an alleged outside always give rise to a
double process: on the one hand, a more or less important
proportion of these libidinal quantities is compensated for by a
return, the daksi na, payment for the lay, for the session, for words
themselves, when they concern the small change of language, the
concept; on the other hand, this process dissipates an irrelcrsible and
unusable quantity of pulsions as heat, as smoke, as jouissalcc, in any
cycle of this type. These are on the circle, then, effects of
transmutation, barely interrupted by expenditure as pure loss, i.e.
by extravagantjouissances. But there still remains the whole question
of what jouissance on the circle consists in. At most we understand that
this jouissance is perverse in contrast to those coursing through the
sacrifcial, analytic or prostitutive offering, just as, conversely, the
latter are if the former is taken as the point of instantiation. We ha ve
still to seize this jouissance affrmatively, the model of which we
have given, somewhat arbitrarily, as the mercantile function of the
Greek city.
Still using the same winding, inane route as the pulsions follow on
the lahyrinthine band, we will fnd something approaching this
jouissancc in classical Chinese erotics. We must stamp out several
doctrines, however dear they may be to our Western nostalgia,
according not the least credit even to the Tao, even to its admirable
doctrine of weakness, rejecting it all as still on the side of nihilism,
whatever proud refnement it may signify in libidinal matters.
In sexual intercourse r commerce] , semen must be considered the
most precious substance. Saving it, the man will protect life
itself After each ejaculation, the loss of semen must be compen
sated for by absorbing the woman's essence. [ To economize on
2()2 Li bidinal EWlomy
semen] , nine pauses must be made after each seri es of ni ne
thrusts , or again, to prevent emi ssi on, a pressure may be applied
by r the fngcrs of the l eft hand to the point l ocatcd on the
underside of the member. Thc semen wiIl then tur back and do
good to the organi s m. In order to ahsorb the woman' s essence,
ol le should give nine shaI l ow thrusts and one deep, al tcrnatel y.
Pl acing one' s mouth on t hat of t he ' enemy' , onc inhales her breath
and sucks up her sal i va. What has been drunk will descend to the
stomach and there will changc the Yillg essencc into the Yang.
When this has been done three ti mes, ni ne shaIlow thrusts will
again be necessary, nine by nine, separated each time by a fnal
deep thrust, until the fgure of8 1 , o r < ti mes 9, has been attained,
thus complcti ng the Yang combination. I
Thc great theses of Chinese erotici sm, cssenti al l y Taoist, arc found
recorded in this Yi-hsill :fang. And here a disposit( of commutation
can be sccn at work, a commutation of i nfuxes so different from
those we have briefy cast our cyes over that it merits a rencwcd
attenti on. For, as opposed to the lay, the sacrifice and the perfor
mance, all of which have the effect of gathering a portion of the
energy expcnded i n perverse jOUiSSIIl{C into an exclungeablc form
( moncy, goods into the sal ary of the pries ts, l anguagc) , leaving thc
remainder to exit, in some way, from the cycle of reproduction and
communication, as vain intcnsi ti es, utterly lost and, so to speak,
stolen by the pervert from thc social organi zation - here, i n Taoist
eroti cs, the arrangement i s such that it will operate i n such a way as to
arouse in the woman, by meticul ous analysis and consideration of
the postures and procedures propcr to the maximization ofJouis
sanee, the intense excitement of her Yin energy, with a view to stealing
it from her. While the prostitute, the pricst and the analyst were
observing, in the face of intolerable i mpul sions from thei r respec
tive viewpoints, a strict rul e of the minimization ofjouissance from
these l atter and the risks they may have run were their venture not
heavily baIlasted by payment for professi onal experti sc, the Chi
nese bedchamber is thc site of quite another bargaining: as long as
the woman, who may here bc considered the subj ect ofjouissance, if
these words mean anything - better: the region of intensity, and
again i t must be said: as a body entirely and exclusively dealt with
rcgarding its genital section (aI l owi ng Van Gulik to praise the
' normality' of this erotics) - as long as this region of erections and
emoti ons, thus l ocalized, i s disavowed and subject to substitution (as
Capital 203
in the indifference of the prostitute' s womb, the sublimation of the
oferi ng or the talking-couch, and by means of the described
payments) , she is suffciently intensely excited to do whatever she
can in the play of hands, of the mouth, oflooks, of the man' s penis
and loins. However much this connecting-up concerns, throughout
the nine positions of the Hsuan-nu-king or the thirty of the Tong
hsuan-tze, only the penetration of the Jade Shaft into the Cavity in
the form of seed through the Jade Gates, the fanatical care with
which this penetrati on, its preparation, its course and i ts issue are
surrounded already obliges us to say that this is not at all a matter of
what Klossowski or Sade would call a simple operation of the
propagation of the species. I n particular, whatever the semen' s
subsequent fate, the Chinese penis docs not act at al l like the
Athenian penis, which i s only concerned, when he penetrates the
wife' s cavity, to deposit its semen there, as quickly as possible, with
a view to the utterly basic and general ends of reproducti on: in
Greece the problem of the female orgasm was not posed, and when
the penis becomes heterosexual, this i s, as has been said, a quasi
prostituti on, because the homosexual community cannot reproduce
itself without the intermediary of women.
It would appear to be the same with the Chinese, where men of
letters , offcial s, military men of every rank, governors, princes and
the emperor himsel f (who are certainly not assembled in a circle like
the citizens , but staggered in a bureaucratic pyramid like pagoda
roo) could not ensure the simple reproduction of the population
by their state apparatus . Therefore, here too, they must employ
women. But they do much more than employ them, and the man
who devotes himsel f to copulation, far from momentarily pros
tituting his civic penis i n the service of propagation and without
jouissancc, pursues , in the bedchamber, a strategy and a medicine
which, under the name of erotics, gives rise to a whole cosmology
and is combined with a whole politics . The useful fragment of the
female body i s not taken according to its fertility alone in terms of
possible children - although i t defnitely is in other places , as we shall
see - i t i s here taken according to its intensive force, as Yin, which is
notated by the fve signs of the woman, by the fve desires of the
woman, by the nine spirits of the woman, according to the Yi-hsin
Jane' That this is a medicinal matter is affrmed by all the Taoist texts
(and even the others) , even when they restrict its range: the
intensifcation of female jouissanrc reinforces masculine energy,
2( ) 4 Libidinal E((oIY
Yang. Secretions from the mouth, the ni ppl es, the vagina, are
i nhaled by the mouth and the Icatus of the man, they enter into this
fragment of the libidinal body, for that is what it i s, like a surplus of
energy. Thi s is certainly Yin, and Yi n i s the sti l l water that all use
without ever exhausti ng i t, this i s why i t threatens the Yang
pri nciple, which i s fre and therefore extinguishabl e, and why
eroti es is also strategi c, and the woman is designated the ' enemy' .
But the Yin excited by the spasms ofjol l issall(e, i s the water boili ng,
it i s already t he fre, i t can pas s to t he Yan si de, i t is a transmutation,
not onl y of elements, but of princi pl es, into one another, for in the
one i s always the kerel of the other, and the expallsion of this
kerel in the one leads it to become the other. What the woman gives
leads to an agonizi ng struggl e and the cry, by means of the
i nnumerable outfows of l i qui ds described in the Treatises , which is
nothi ng more than her water whi ch has been shaken up so much; and
this i s why the man, who i s on the Yang si de, will be able to be
enri ched by seizing i t. Enrichment presented as convalescence, a
therapeuti cs of mi nor ill s, but also of serious illnesses (with precise
prescriptions conceri ng the postures and manoeuvres likely to
remedy them) , but especially the enrichment of potential i mmor
tal ity, that is - in the secul ar or soci al , indeed Confucian, version -
because they can expect to reap the beneft of beautiful mal e
children from this energetic capi tal i zati on, that is - when the use of
erotics tends towards Taoi st mysti ci sm - on whi ch they count in
order to attain, through the repetition of these pumpings of Yin in
ful l swing, the i mmortality of the Tao itself by identifying it with
the Name-Less which never ceases to transmute itself
But al l this, no matter how we understand and practIse It, initiaiiy
counts, in total contrast to the pagan function of the Hellenic civic
husband, only on condition that the Jade Shaft remains erect in its
tumescence and that ejaculation has not taken place. Thus, on the
one hand, liquids spil l from cavities and corners of the pulsional
body-band in the eruption called woman, and on the other i s a hard
peni s, dri nki ng open-mouthed these exci tatory liquids and conserv
ing them: coitus reservatus.
What is this remarkable dispositij To the Chosen Girl, astonished
that the man can take any pl easure in restraining himself from
ej aculation, P' ong-tsou responds that doubtless the emission of
semen gi ves a moment of pl easure, but not a sensati on of
voluptuousness: ' I f, instead, the man practi ses the sexual act without
Capital 205
ejaculating, his vital essence will be strengthened, his body will be
wholly at case, his hearing will be refned and his eyes perceptive;
even if the man has repressed his passion, his love for the woman
will be increased. It is as if he could never suHciently possess her. ' 2
From this ambiguous response, there arc two lines to follow: frst of
all a point of departure for the themes of platonic, courtly,
impossible and romantic love inasmuch as instead of plugging
libidinal energies into organs, into pieces of the labyrinthine body,
the retention of sperm will sanction a different plugging in, this
time into persons, and love for these persons will be substituted for
discharge into anonymous regions. Such a displacement requires the
production, on the woman's part as on the man's, of subjects, that is
to say of unitary and empty instances, which, by definition, will in
fact never be suffciently 'owned', since they are only an instantiat
ing zero of the plllsions. Continuing in this direction, one soon
discovers so-called 'modern' problematics, such as are found in
Lacan, which highlight notions of the lack ofjouissallcc [ manque a
jouir] and the elusiveness of the libidinal object. Let's observe,
however, that these problematics arc in fact dominated by precisely
that which does not, in any way, hang over Taoist thought, even less
its erotics: the category of the subject. For if the Tao is important to
us libidinal economists, it is not because of its nihilism, but because
of its refnement in the search for and the affrmation of mutability,
and thereby the non-existence in it of the question of the subject.
Such, precisely, is the other line to follow from P'ong-tsou's
response, and it is this that in other respects all of Van Gulik's texts
substantiate: the fortifcation of the man's body, the refnement of
his hearing, his vision, his alertness, this something which, after
Zen, as Cage says, lea ves everything just as it was before, except that
one is three inches above the ground -all that, obtained by means of
the retention of semen and the constraint imposed upon it, by means
of techniques , whether mental or physical (like the pressure of the
middle and index fngers on the seminal duct before emission), to
turn back towards the head - all that comes not fom nihilism but
from intensifcation. This man couldn't care less about the woman
he is sleeping with. The Great Chinese have gynaecea of a
thousand women: hence anonymity. Perhaps, however, the same
goes for him. What must he do? Multiply the circulations, the
connections, excite the water with the fre burning in his loins, travel
r voyager] with extreme reserve, within the tiny margin given by the
Li hidinal EWl i o/1i Y
rul es of t he books of the Ars amatoria . These rules i l l thei r minute
detai l I ll ll st be understood and practi sed as those that gover the
gest ural code, the song, the dance and the musi c of a Noh spectacl e:
they perform the function of a gui de onl y for apprentices for
whom they del i mi t a col l tmrio the feld of thi ngs not to do. But the
great art , as in Taoi st crot i cs, and doubt l ess as i n madness al so,
consi sts i n t uri ng the v hol e fiel d they del i mi t on i ts head, maki ng i t
i nt o a s ort of lI ol l -placl' whi ch t hey s weep over rather than
ci rclI mscri be, and where no-one wi l l never know whether this
i ncl i nati on of the torso, this beat of the tambouri ne, this gesture of
the arm, i ncli nes a l i ttl e to thi s s i de or t hat si de of the rul e. In
compl etel y reversing the rel ati on of the act, theatrical for the Nail ,
sexual for the Manual of Love, to i ts measurement , to the poi nt that
it i s the ti rst whi ch al one determi nes i ts i mmeasurable i ntlsi ry, one
enters at l ast i nto the i ncomparabl e and undeci dabl e si ngul ari t y. The
rul e i s no l onger a line passi ng {J l I ll d the feld where what /I st
happen i ndeed t akes pl ace, whi l e excl udi ng what must not take
pl ace, but l i ke a tur ni ng on i tsel f ( and its axi al poi nt of rotation
di s pl aci ng i t sel fon the segment to t he right whi ch is the rul e) , l i ke an
osci l l ati ng rotation rendering what happens el usi ve and i mmemor
abl e (whether i t be movements of the head, songs, i n the Noh,
t hrust s of t he peni s, undul ati ons of t he buttocks , i n coitus) , i t serves
to do nothi ng more than to engender, by the i mpossi bi l i ty of
si t uati ng the act i n rel ati on to i t , thi s non-pl ace or this unthi nkable
pl ace whi ch i s precisely the passage of i ntensi ty. A l i ne engendering
an evanescent region where emotion fares up, that region i s par
(((1/111 (( an i ncompossi bl c fragment of the l abyri nthi ne band.
That thi s is t he functlon of t he scrupulous eroti c prescri pti ons i s
undeni able. They do not al l the same j usti fy the exclusive pri vi lege
accorded to coitls reservatus . Al l the passi ons would seem to be
equally capable here of creati ng the new space of i mmeasurabl e
si ngulari ti es . If then t he Tao and the whole Chi nese tradi ti on restrict
the entire i ntensi ve fUlction to the retenti on of sperm, i t i s because
throughout intensi fcati on, there continues to appear what
Kl os sowski called an i ntenti on, and i t i s not by accident that semen i s
requi red to retrace i t s path back to the brai n. The i ntenti on i s
doubtless not, as one mi ght thi nk, essenti ally mi sogyni sti c; i t i s sai d
elsewhere that the woman i s al so, for her part, able to practise an
eCOllOIll y of her vagi nal secreti ons, and of absorbing the Yang
pri nci pl e at work i n her partner. The YuJarlg-pi -ki le gives advice on
Capital 207
this, enabling women not to expend their entire Yin essence in coitus
and to postpone orgasm. The Treatise goes so far as t o say: ' If a
woman knows the way to nourish her force and the way to realize
the harmony of the two essences ( Yin and Yang) , she can transform
herself into a man. If, during coitus , she can prevent the secretions
from her vagina being absorbed by the man, they will fow back into
the organism of her own body, and so her Yin essence will be
nourished by the man' s Yang. ' 3 We cannot affrm too strongly that
there is no insurmountable sexual difference, that each one poten
tially contains the other' s correlate, and so there is the possibility of
its crossing over to the ' enemy' . No, the question is not one of
feminism, the intention to reserve may occupy a woman' s head just
as much as a man' s; the Art of Loving draws no distinction on this
point. Ultimately, however, a head is necessary, to which some
thing fows back and is reserved. An instance of collection and
relief, coupled with the intention to reach one or even several goals .
At frst, what offers the most mystical and also the most popular
goals is immortality, the return of mutability to the void, and the
loss of false subj ectivity in weakness, which is true s trength. ' The
multitude has more than enough. / I alone seem to want. / My mind
is that of a fool - how blank! / Vulgar people are clear. / I alone am
drowsy. / Vulgar people are alert. / I alone am muddled. / Calm like
the sea; / Like a high wind that never ceases . / The multitude have a
purpose. / I alone am foolish and uncouth. / I alone am different
from others / And value being fed by the mother. ' 4 The mother is
the water, woman, the Yin; the wind is the man, the Yang: this
confusion belongs to coitus as much as to the Tao, and when one is
' there' (there where I do not think, as Lacan says) , then it is indeed
intensity, without intention, without a precise goal, which arises .
But the intention is only slightly displ aced or put aside: the
intention to ' be fed by the mother' remains. This Mother, the
Mother of t he Universe, is t he Tao; this i s what is said of i t : ' I give i t
the makeshift name of "the great". / Being great, it is further
described as recedi ng, / Receding, i t is described as far away, / Being
far away, it i s described as turning back. '5 To be fed by the Mother
is to pump up the Yin or the Yang, it doesn' t matter which, to gather
together as much energy as possible in order that the endless fuidity
of the wave which spreads out and returns to its supreme emptiness6
be inscribed. Therefore, while you copulate as intensely as possible,
you do not forget this slight pressure of the fngers of the left hand
2( )H Libidinal Econolll Y
between the scrotum and the anus, t hi s suspensi on of the to-and-fro
of the stol l l ach, whi ch, whi l e vyi ng wi th your partner, wi l l have
you t ake what he-she i s gi vi ng you ( wi t hout counti ng?) , and steal i ng
hi s-her surpl us force whi ch has consequent l y passed i nto you; just
try t o capi tal i ze i t al l i n t he fui d i nani t y whi ch i s t he Tao: ' Thirty
s pokes / Share one hub. / Adapt the nothi ng therei n I Fr. : Ie vide
I I I Mi<1n I to the purpose ill hand, and / you wi l l have the usc of the
cart. ' : 7 whi ch, in the cos mol ogi cal order, i s the s ame disposit!fas the
mercanti l e Greek and Lydi an central zero. You were on the
ci rcumfrence, and, usi ng an extreme i ntensi ty, you cal cul ate to get
yoursel f ki cked out of or be i nj ected i nto the central void, beyond
l i te and death. You trade. I s thi s coi tus a war? Thi s is not i mportant .
What i s i mportant i s t hat one says : al l ri ght , l et ' s be strategi c about
thi s. For strategy i s the market, death i ncl uded amongst the possi bl e
outcomes. And what just a moment ago passed tor the rdi nement
of precepts al l owi ng the non-pl ace of the l i bi di nal band to be si ngl ed
out , now appears, by the moral i zati on of the affai r and the ni hi l i sm
whi ch restri cts i ts range to the cent ral voi d, to be t he si mpl e
l l I axi mi zati on of energetic proft . I t i s not because thi s l atter i s
a l l cgedl y cosmol ogi cal or ontol ogi cal t hat i t i s I cs s i nteresti ng or
i ncredibl e. There i s a Taoist trade. Thi s can be cl earl y seen i n the
al chemi cal i nterpretati on that can be given of erotic texts . Nothi ng
is more commercial th:m alchemy: a trade of the si mul acra of
afcts, a quantifcation of the pul si ons of death and l i fe, a
wei ghi ng-up of the sexes , for purposes of enrichment, and even for
absol ute weal th, i . e. gol d. It is no surprise that this disposit! i s
di scovered, by means of Lavoi si er' s bal ance and i ts position of
equilibriul for exchanges ofbodY-lc(its, i n industry. Taoi st erotics ,
strategy, alchemy, ethics , with thei r central nihi l i sm, these are so
many concentrations, profoundly anal ogous to what presides over
generalized mercanti l i sm.
But there i s more, that i s , more uni magi nati ve and more directl y
concentrated: i f the man (for, ulti matel y, i n the maj ority of texts , it
i s stil l the man who vampirizes) practi ses the coitus rescrvatus, i t i s not
onl y to practise Tao, i t is al so a safeguard, on the other hand, so that
all thc semen thus a[[umliated produces beautiful boys and girl s ,
when advisedly released. Of course favourabl e erotic, atmospheric,
seasonal , social conditions arc necessary; it remains that what he
reserves by his studied priapi sm, i s not only annihilation on the
central zero, it is the best propagati on on the cycle of Chinese
Capital 209
pol itical economy. And so the head which his unemitted semen
cl i mbs towards and collects itsel f in i s not a mystical head, but more
hureacracy. For this head is the head of a family chief, and this chief
will be all the more powerful the greater the number of mal e
children he has, and they wi l l be all the more numerous and energetic
the more he has hoarded his sperm, and his treasure of sperm will be
all the richer the more concubines he has, therefore the richer or
more capabl e he wi l l he, a military man, a man of high offce, of
procuring for hi msel f numerous women. In short, through thi s the
woman total l y fulfls the function of an energy source (you coul d
say the sun, soil , l abour force, waterL11, wind) from which he must
appropriate for hi msel f the force that she can provide, by optimiz
ing her yield and transforming her into another form of energy
(chil dren here) , which in turn, by transmutation, wi l l give a
supplement of energy (in this case a l arge family, many fne mal e
hei rs, enahling the extension of the family and its powers and its
clientele over the spaces on which the bureaucratic hierarchy i s
superi mposed) . A Confucian perspective on reserved coi tus, itself a
very reserved perspective, whichjudges Taoist erotics indecent and
will repress it. One can indeed see that, at the s ame time as it is the
decline of the vul garity of power, i t is also the reverse side and the
complement of the Taoist search for annihilatory intensities .
The Greeks have never had this point of view on the woman and
the chi l d, and i t i s a point which, for the pulsional economi st,
permi ts the strict differentiation of the civic community and
' despotic Oriental ' soci ety. What i s this Chinese semen? The obj ect
of a saving? More: of a capitalization. A saving woul d simply be the
retention of semen i n the occasional jouissance. The act of savi ng i s
reduced to a pressure of the fngers of the left hand on the seminal
duct. But Chinese erotics requires many things apart from this act: it
wants to extract from the partner as much force as possi bl e;
therefore introducing into a body, which will be the reproductive
body, new quantities of energy. Not only i s emi ssi on, that i s
expendi ture, suspended, which i s the saving; but the augmentation of
forces , for whi ch t he penis no longer operates as an escape route for
the over-ful l , but, in the opposite sense, as a drilling channel
through which the energetic substances dormant in the folds of the
body (of the earth-woman) are gathered up, stock-piled (genital s,
spine, head; pumping stati ons, pipe-line, reservoirs ) , and subse
quently put back into circulation as means of production (fertilizing
21 Lihidinal Economy
emi ssIn of semen; combustion of hydrocarbons for so-called
reproductive goals) . Again the anal ogy is insuffcient: the mining
must be i magined, by itself, through the excitement i t provokes in
the l ayers which contact and open onto the enormous reamed glans
promised to them, which already mul tiplies the energy that they
contain. Something that is not true of mini ng itself (of the
i ntromissi on of the penis into the vagina) , but of crackitlg, H
something like the erotic manoeuvres surrounding penetration.
The maximization of the partner' s orgasm here becomes the
object of a search foreign to the preoccupations of si mple reproduc
ti oll . What the intenliem of Taoist mysticism or bureaucracy aims at
is an illlTeased reproduction. A thoroughly misunderstood element
of the simple Greek philia, of the si mpl e desire for the
exchangeability and permutability of goods and needs, i s signalled
i n the irl fent;oll oj irl tensijcatiol1. This does not result in every attempt
at a si mpl e di sti nction between the libidinal and the political being
di s mi ssed. For ifit i s true that the cold calculation of the intention to
reserve will cover over the boiling intensities aroused by the erotics
of postures and procedures, it seems to be because, in the circle oj
ill tcll tioll al (hills, the chance of new intensities will once more arise.
And it i s i n exami ni ng this route that we come to the question: what
i s thi sjotl issaHcc on the circle, and consequently what is thisjotl issalce
i n capitalism itself
1 '/z e COllcenlratory 7ero
Who enj oyed this jouis5aflcc which is at the same time the reservation
and the maximization of intensities ? Not: who enjoyed? but rather:
how did it enjoy [ comment (a jou;t] , in what place, under what
modality is intensity produced, what labour, deformation, special
dance, adulteration does it infict on the great ephemeral and
l abyrinthine skin? This man who hol ds back his s emen (force) with
the tlngers of his l eft hand and turns it back towards his head, what
movement is he caught up in? A polymorphous movement of force
[tl issance] , a pure insertion into the cycle of metamorphoses, in
which there is only the passage from one form to another, not even:
from one intensity to another in a labyrinth, not even: in an
inumerable collection of l abyrinths each resulting in a collision
(collision with a beautiful ' adversary' whom one fees, carried away
with fear and its force) , hence one fight, and another, the
Capital 21 1
incandescence of the Yang encountered, abducted, fed from,
transformed, l ost in another incandescence? I s what this Chinaman
carries with him either an intention to capitalize, instantiation on a
centre, doubtless empty, indeed non-existent like the Tao itself, but
where the mistress of all metamorphoses resides? I mmersion in the
force [uissance] of metamorphoses? Or instantiation 01 the power
of metamorphoses?
Thi s hesitation oscillates between two sorts of zero, and these two
sorts of zero are dissimulated in the very functioning of capital . For
this latter fnctioning is not at all the well-oiled machinery which a
certain Sraf attempted to provide a model of, and no more the
contradiction-ridden machinery which a certain Marx wishes to
demonstrate, in order to provide proof of its non-vi ability; it is a
function instantiated principally on a central zero, on a commodity
standard, on a general , structural law of equivalence; guided
therefore, by a certain use (accountant, payer, creditor) of money;
but there is also, and simultaneously, dissimulated in this use,
unresolvabl y, a convulsive anti-functioning which puts the system
of reproduction at risk, in the name of speculation, for example, but
which i s much more than speculation, which is to the productive
usage of money what anti-matter is to matter.
There are two uses of wealth, that is to say of force-power
[uissance-pouvoi r] : a reproductive and a pillaging use. The frst is
circular, global, organic; the second is partial , deadl y, j ealous. There
are two uses of money, but these two uses of money, these two
moneys , i f you l i ke, must not be confused with the two conceivable
sorts of zeros actually operating in the system. Let' s start here, by
determining (that' s ri ght, men of the concept . . . ) a zero of
annulment and a zero of conquest, a zero of value or price and a zero of
proft or surplus-value. We will then be able t o make a distinction
between the two sorts of conquest, the one by annexation and the
other by looting, dissimulated in capitalist money, that i s to say in
the zero of profit. This dissimulation i s the same one that we are
continually talking about, it commands all the intensity there is in
the direction of capital . The capitalist (he who exists and does not
exist) is a conqueror, and the conqueror is a monster, a centaur: his
fore-quarters are nourished hy the reproduction of the regulated
system of metamorphoses controlled under the law of the com
modity standard, and his hind-quarters by looting overexcited
energies . With one hand he appropriates , therefore retains, that is to
I LibiditI a[ Ecoll omy
say reproduces \i thi n equi val ence, rei nvest s; wi th the other, he
t akes and destroys , steal s and fees, hol l owi ng out anot her space,
another t i me. Agai n the s ymmetry of these formul as i s deceptive.
The same si gns, monetary or mercant i l i st , that alilays count as
economi c si gni fi ers, that is to s ay as referri ng to other signs, may al so
count as very di trent i ntensi ti es, jouissatl's from destructi on .
I eproducti ol l di ssi mul ates destru cti on, destructi on may di ssi mul ate
reproducti on, but above al l t he l abyri nt hi ne t i mes of destructi on
cannot be deduced from the si ngl e t i me of reproducti on .
Let' s frst retur to the zero. There i s i n every cybereti c system a
uni t of referel lce whi ch al l ows the di spari t y produced by the
i nt roducti on of an event i nt o the syst em to be measured; then,
t hal l ks to t hi s measure, t hi s event can be t ransl ated i nto i nformati on
for t he system. Fi nal l y, i f i t i s a matter of a homeostati cal l y
regul ated whol e, t hi s di spari t y can be annul l ed and t he system l ed
back t o the same quant i t y of energy or i nformati on that i t
prC\ i ousl y had. Sraffa' s commodi t y st andard ful fi l s thi s functi on.
I f t he system' s growth were regul ated, i t woul d al ter not hi ng of the
l oop-functi oni ng (i' edback'J) model : i t i s s i mpl y that the scale of
retrci lce is thel l no l onger I I , but /1 1 . The model is the same as that
whi ch Freud had in mi nd when he described the working of the
psychi cal apparatus, whether this is in the Project jor a Scient(
PsyrlwloXY or in Beyond til e Plmsllre Prillcipl e. Erotic functioning,
mai nt ai ni ng wholes. This Eros is centred on a zero: the obvious zero
of homeostatic regulation, but more generally annihilation by the
jeedback (that is to say by the repetition of the binding function), of
the system's every insignificant disparity, of every threatening
Let's stop a while here. We see how the adoption of this
perspective on society, that is, the despotic phantasy of the master
situated on the alleged site of the central zero and hence identifying
himself with the matrix of the Nothing (as Levi-Strauss might say),
can only compel him to extend his idea of the threat and therefore of
dtence. For what event does not present any danger, from this
perspective? Not one; quite the contrary, since they are disturbances
of a circular order, reproducing the same (u or /u) , requiring energy
to be mobilized fr purposes of appropriation and elimination. Is
this too abstract? Do we need an 'example'? It is the same project as
perpetuates, in France and in high places, the institution of an
operational Defence of the territory, secured from an operational
Capital 21 3
Centre of the infantry, whose speciality i s to ward off the 'internal'
threat, originating from dark corners of the 'social body', whose
administrative staff claim nothing less than to be a clairvoyant head:
this clairvoyance is called the national register; the threat then
spreads 'in a global sense; it is not simply military, but diplomatic,
economic, scientifc, it is internal, even cultural';
the translation of
the event into information for the system is called intelligence: this,
'that is to say preliminary knowledge', is it not 'the key to every
decision'? This research, consequently, 'interests all branches of
knowledge and the activity of men . . . It spreads to all domains:
political, military, economic, scientifc';
fnally the execution of
regulatory orders and their inscription on the 'social body',
especially when one imagines this as subject to some intense
emotion, for example, the fear and panic that shake it up in every
sense and in all cases where the threat of a nuclear war is unleashed
(meaning also: where there arises some upsurge or other of protest,
contestation, civil disobedience, regarded as insane) - this execution
requires the assiduous and subtle inftltration of the communication
channels in the social 'fesh', as a certain superior offcer mar
vellously put it, 'the police of spontaneous movements'
. 1 2
Totalitarianism is nothing but the process of domination of the
master group over the enslaved group. This process is not transi
tory, circumstantial, it is not bound to the fnction of a particular
political party (the 'right') or of a particular social class (the
'bourgeoisie'): a left, united or not, possibly operating in the name
of the proletariat, will perform the same labour of the detection of
threats, of the centralization of intelligence, the distribution of
orders, the elimination of events and men or groups allegedly in
contact with these latter. The erotic dimension of the left's desire
being more marked than in any other group, one may even wonder
if it is any more capable of defending against the circulation of
energies than any other formation relying on the unifcatory power
of capital. In any case, what distinction can we make today, more
than half a century after the frst workers' revolution, between a
'communist' party's state control of economic circuits and cultural
thought on the one hand, and on the other the conditioning and
training of all the pieces of the social body by the school, the
barracks, the mass media, publicity, conformism and the fear of
lack, in a country of 'free enterprise'? Small nuances, here and there,
in the all-pervasive white terror, from the point of view of the red
2 14 Li bidill al lcml Ory
vi ol ence of mutant i ntensi ti es 01 1 the great puI s i on a I ski n , Nuances
in total i tari ani sm and the concentratory power.
The i mportant thi ng i s not to deci de between the East and t he
West, one suspects . I t ' s a questi on, rat her, of remarki ng t hat
total i tari ani sm whi ch i s the very process of concentrati on can
expand onl y to the extent t hat new quanti ti es of energy arc i ncl uded
i n the sai d ci rcul ation of capi tal , new quanti ti es whi ch wi l l
ceasel essl y spread over the surfces i nvol ved and mul t i pl y t he
chances avai l abl e to the parti al pul si ons to be i nvested i n t he ' soci al '
body, renderi ng t he uni t y of t hi s l atter uncertai n. Thi s i s the
movemcnt of i ntegrati on whi ch rui ns the ol d di sti ncti ons, for
exampl e, that of the mi l i tary and the ci vi l i an, the pol i ti cal and the
pri vate, the economi c and the cul t ura l , whi ch di vests these once
di verse regi ons of thei r speci fi c di gni ty and has them fl ed away
under t he same category i n the Cent ral cat al ogue of i ntel l i gence and
deci si on-nl aki ng. And i f there i s a cri si s of pol i ti cal econolll Y, i t i s
pri mari l y ( but not onl y, as we shal l s ec) because i n thi s process of
i ncessant i ntegrati on whi ch gi ves ri se to t he movement of expan
si on, the sai d ' sci ence' of course l oses i ts Lati n, but frst i ts object:
f) r what is ' weal th' , what is ' good' , what is ' exchange' , what i s
' l abour' , when sal ary obvi ousl y contains surpl us-val ue, when pri ces
are sel f-determi ni ng, outsi de al l debate amongst the exchangi st s,
accordi ng to a compl ex comllodi ty st andard that no-one (except a
theori st after 40 years of study) wi ll come to defne, when speech,
knowl edge, opi ni on, apti tude can and must be accounted for i n
assets, when the deci si on to i nvest i n capital no l onger necessari ly
belongs to i ts owners, when the mili tary man becomes an econo
mi st, the economist a psychoanal yst, (he scjeI 1 Lj L d mility man, the
pedagogue an i nformation sci entist?
It i s space and ti me that become the obj ects of intelligence and
decision-maki ng, at the l evel of the l abourer' s ' body' i n Taylor
is m, 1 3 at that of the urban map in metropol itan rush-hours , or the
national map on days when people are l eavi ng the industrial nations
for their holidays. These are the so-called ' mot i vations' , the fnal
protest of needs, whose quantities are recorded and intensities
measured, i f possible, by market st udies and sales monitoring
following an advertising campai gn. The most lucid sociologist used
to complain of (and l augh) bei ng unable to bestow on his offce a
sheen of scientifc dignity. But now every ' disci pline' can onl y
arouse the same great suspicion in its own company. The idea of
Capital 215
scientifcity succumbs twi ce: under the subservience of scientifc
functions to those of capital as the great concentrator, or even under
the confusi on of the one with the other; and under the effect of
decompartmentalization which produces, in the instituted felds of
research, the passage of capital, this time as the great pervert. So
much so that today' s s cience is at first glance merely research into
effciency, that is, into power, and on the second merely the
production of strange and effcient fctions . Not only is there no
' economic thing' , there i s no ' scientifc thing' , either.
The great concentrator wants stable circuits, equal cycles, predict
able repetiti ons, untroubled accountability. It wants to eliminate
every partial pul si on, it wants to immobilize the body. Such is the
anxiety of the emperor of whom Borges speaks, who desired a map
of the empire so exact that it had to cover the whole territory in
every aspect and therefore duplicate its scale exactl y, to such an
extent that the monarch' s subj ects spent so much time and used up so
much energy in putting the fnishing touches to it and maintaining it
that the empire ' itself fel l to more and more ruin as its cartographic
blueprint became more and more perfect - such is the madness of
the great central Zero, its desire to bring a body, which can only ' be'
i f it is represented, to a s tandstil l . And such is the madness of
political economy, recognized in Sraffa' s constructs. But this was
already the madness of the Little Girl Marx, the desire for a social
genitality, into which al l the partial pulsions would be reabsorbed,
which would have its unity in itself and where the ' truth' of political
economy would fnally prevail , in this case a reproduction conform
ing to nature. There is in this desire for ' nature' , which is a unitary
totality, a furious concentrating energy.
Nihi l ist Theory oft he Zero ofCredit
Now l ook at the other zero, no longer that which at the centre
proceeds, like money in the Nicomachean Ethics, to the equitable
annulment of the relations between goods and needs, but that which
is, so to speak, thrown onto the same circuit of exchanges,
appearing to permit the extension of their range and the increase of
their volume, enrichment. No longer payment money, the arbitrary
standard of annulments , but credit money. Aristotle, in the Politics,
which Marx ceasel essl y reread from 1857 onwards, distinguishes
three chrematistics, that i s to say, three sorts of procedures for the
2 1 6 Libidinal Economy
sat i sfaction of needs. The frst is perfectl y organi c, it is i nscribed on
the body of a fami l i al communi ty produci ng according to i ts needs,
i n a utarchy, and has no need at al l of money; i t i s when excesses of
goods and needs appear here and there that there ari ses a need for
new exchange a mongst natural communi ti es , which bri ngs to bear
on the goods at stake in i t a sort of basi c suspi ci on, since they are no
l onger i ntended for the i mmedi ate sati sfacti on of the needs of the
domesti c body whi ch produced them, but for the sati sfaction of the
needs of another fami l i al communi t y: thei r usc-val ue i s then
mediated by thei r exchange-val ue. Neverthel ess , says Ari stotl e, a
chremati sti c of this type, if it requires money and i ts pol i ti cal
arbi tration, i s not counter to nature, i t never ceases to take as i ts rule
over need and on the koinoll ia the most organi c thi ng possi bl e, the
famil y. Thi s fi rst cl eavage between natural economy and pol i ti cal
economy, whose range wi l l be dramati cal l y extended by Marx, i s on
the contrary mi ni mized by Ari stotl e because on the whol e t he
chremati sti c of such exchanges must i n hi s eyes remai n l i mi ted,
fl ni te, measured by the needs of the exchangi ng parti es, which are
domestic communities . I magi ne, however, the operation of retail
trade, of the kapelikoll ; i n the mori ng, the merchant buys some
subsistence good, not for any use he mi ght have for i t , but to resel l i t
for more i n t he evening: here, s ays Ari stotl e, this is counter t o
nature, here i s a procedure whi ch contai ns a potenti al l y dangerous
: here need cannot limit or hal t the proces s , only the quantity
of money which the merchant may use to buy and sel l; now this
quantity increases during the operati on i tself ' . . . on the one hand
weal th and the acqui si ti on of goods (chremati stic) i n accordance
wi th nature, and belonging to household management (oikonomike) ;
on the other hand the kind that is associ ated wi th trade (kaptlike) ,
which is not productive of goods in the full sense but only through
their exchange. ' And thi s l atter form, adds Aristotle, ' i s thought to
be concerned with coi nage, because coi nage both l i mi ts the
exchange and i s the uni t of measurement by whi ch i t i s performed;
and there i s indeed no l i mi t to the amount of riches to be got from
thi s mode of acquiring goods (chremati sti c)
. 1 4
Here then, credit money appears. The retail trader makes himself
an advance; he i s at the same ti me his debtor and his creditor; as
debtor, he will have to reimburse the money spent on the morni ng' s
purchase with t hat gained by t he evening' s sal e; as creditor, he will
retain an interest on the ' l oaned' sum, an i nterest which i n this case
Capital 21 7
consists in the net difference between the sum gained and the sum
spent. A use of money that anticipates a result yet to come, when its
payment function is forced to settle a present or past debt. To this
reversal of time responds the reversal of relations between com
modities and money: the latter here takes itself as an end, while in
inter-domestic chrematistics it was a means to the satisfaction of
needs: M-C-M instead of C-M-C.15 Isn't this exactly the same
reversal that coitus reservatu5 performs by postponing ejaculation,
putting wealth into reserve as semen, as Tao intensities therefore (or
as a bureaucratic clientele), while on the other hand it excites those
regions (the woman) capable of providing it with energy? Doesn't
the merchant activate, extend the circuits of commerce, by inciting
new exchanges that at frst will inevitably seem useless and even
unnatural, and doesn't he, like the Oriental erotician, postpone
ejaculation, that is to say the use of the goods that he causes to
circulate, for the beneft of that which alone can relate them,
fnancial energy, energy as money?
Pursuing this description of the autonomization of the mediator
(here, money), we soon encounter Hegel of course, 16 the descrip
tion he made in 1804 of the formation of Potf ZCI, Mitte, fom the
starting point of the inhibition (Hemmung) of desire. Desire in its
immediacy, says Hegel, is a destroyer, its fulflment always
annihilates both the desirable object and the desiring subject as such.
The means by which he escapes this nihilist fate is the necessary
invention of a middle term between the object and the subject. Both
the partners and their sexual desire would be annihilated in orgasm if
the institution of the family (and of the child) don't come to sublate
lye/ever] and reserve the force of this desire, otherwise devoted to
consumption. In the same way, the pulsion of nomination, if it is
also fulflled in the immediacy of the emotive expression, could
only continually disappear in each of its occurrences, incapable of
maintaining itself from one moment the next, and would he no less
incapable of recognizing the object designated by the sporadic
outbursts: here too it is as an intermediary between the locutor
[emetteur] and the reference that the Potcnz of the system of
linguistic signs comes to interpose itself, language as an institution.
Same thing fnally in labour where the manufacturing desire would
do away with itself at the same time as it would destroy all its matter,
if at the same time the memory of the desire-need and the form of
the matter to be put to play against that of the object were not
21H Lihidinal ECOIlOlIlY
inscribed in the [O!CII of the tool. Thus, !Iegel says, the merely
nihilist force of desire fnds itself shackled, slowed down by its
instantiatioll on the .i!!e (a medium which is held in the milieu: the
child as the mediulll of love, the word as that of ellunciation, the
instrument as that of labour); and the institution of this requires a
retur, cit! Riickkchr, by which the admittedly destructive desire
reverses its course, is tured away fro\1l its catastrophic realization
and inhibits itself by fxing itself in its own mediulll. Hegel here
employs the word which will be Freud's: HCllltHlm, inhibition.
One is tempted to say that what is described under the cover of
such an inhibition of the force Ipllissi/(c] of desire, considered
destructive, is capitalization. (f the downstream and the upstream of
the process of production, which is itself a process of the
'annihilation' of all its components - Iahour-fce, materials,
equipment - can nevertheless be preserved, is it not due to a similar
inhibition of the destructive pulsion in play in political economy?
And this inhibition cleaves the objects, things and men, which it
preserves, just as designation divides the object into its 'intra'
systemic signification and its 'extra'-systemic represcntation or
perception (sensible, phenomenological, etc.); or as the family splits
the partner in two, into a libidinal objcct and a spouse endowed with
powers and regulated rights. The whole Marxist analysis of the
division of labour into the concrete and the abstract, of value into
use-valuc and cxchangc-value, belongs to thc same figurc of thc
reduction of force [uissancc] onto the mediator and its institution as
PotCtlz. A fgure of alienation for Marx as for Hegel, except that,
for the frst, this latter is not well jOlmdcd in the second. All dialectical
thought with its two grcat functions of intensifcation on the
mediatory instance and of thc division (EntUeilmg, a terlll which
reappears ill the writings of the young Hegel) of the mediated
instantiations seems indeed to be, from the point of view of
libidinal economy, a thought of inhibition.
Yet what is involved in this strange action of an inhihition of the
supposedly destructive force from which power itself would
emanate? (For, in the name of POtCZ, there is indeed the question of
power.) At least two ideas are compounded there. First, power is, as
its name indicates, a potential [uissance] in the sense of an
operational virtuality, which is never without an organization of
events into a past and a future and their commensurability, or at least
their co-conceivability. Then it is correlative with an inhibition of
Capital 219
desire; power is reduced from desire onto a mean or medium; but
this is an understatement, as Marx notes in 1843, for, in a thought of
synthesis, everything can be a mean; and so everything is a matter of
power. We must therefore say that power comes from desire
insofar as it is folded back, and nothing more. (And doubtless we
must conclude likewise with the Ego in Freud: continually con
stituted by mourning the loss of objects, and by the concomitant
reversals, it is nothing, the pulsion need not come to be reversed
onto this supposedly primary 'proper person', it is rather this
reversal (inhibition of the pulsional goal, as noted by Green in his
study of narcissism) which constantly produces the Ego as the
evanescent instance of its fulfilment.) These two ideas of the order
of events (in the mathematical sense where two terms arc ordered
into a set) and of the inhibition of desire, combine therefore into that
of Potenz or power.
In this way the inhibition would coincide with the introduction of
temporality, which Freud will call secondary, it would coincide with
the activation of this time which is the concept for Hegel. For, in
postponing its flflment (,destructive', let's acknowledge it once
again), it would create a reserve or a reservoir of energy at the same
time as a lack, awaiting the hour of its suppression. This waiting
would open the interval of a future, and become swollen with the
inhibited energy in a cumulative process of retention; in this way the
secondary chronological order would be constituted. As in the
army, the reserve is something which can serve again:17 it has
already served without being exhausted in this previous task, and it
can enter into a process of use in order to start this task again or
continue it. It is from the past, it has proved itself, it ran do so again,
it is therefore of the future; but of course of that future which is
identical to the past, repetitive of the same. Charles Malamoud
shows the importance, in both Vedic metaphysics and Indian
practices of ritual feeding, of the category of the remainder: a figure
of permanence.1H This reserve would he therefore power as
potential, as force retained from immediate investment.
(And here again one could draw a parallel with Freud, when he
imagines displaceable, foating energy as desexualized energy, that is
to say disinvested for him, and put into reserve under the control of
the Ego. Which amounts to saying that all availability - we will see
the importance of this for the function of money in capital - all
potential belongs to the realist instance, by which I mean: to that
220 Lihidinal ECOIlOmy
which determines what is reality and what is not, exactly as in
economic matters the instance of capital is alone realist. Now these
foating masses of energy, if they can always he counted as the
reserve of the Ego or of Capital in the service of Eros, unexpectedly
also turn out to pass over to the cnem y, to the Id, to the partial
pulsions and to death through excess; and such is their dis
placeability: not limited to the defensive functions their master
assigns them, but stretching even to threaten this latter, just as the
Praetorian Guard threatened their emperor. The reserve of capital
may also become threatening, and this is not as a result of any
dialectic whatever. But I am jumping ahead ... )
What then, from Hegel's perspective, would credit be? Not the
monstrous infnity that Aristotle fresees with the worst apprehen
sion, but a inhibitive regulation of desire, including the reserve and
the retur of these energetic quantities into circulation. The question
implied in the use of credit is that of knowing what exactly the
creditor uses to make an advance to the borrower. For example: with
what docs the banker make the advance in the operation M-C-M?
Considering this latter not as the act of an individual but as a libidinal
economic functional mode, it is with energeti( relllainders withdrawn
hre the deadline that the capital fnancier becomes the lender. And
what he could dra w on in the course of the operation under the name
of interest as the difference between M2 and Ml would be nothing
but the result of the deduction that the debtor cannot fail to make in
his turn, during the repayment period, from his own energetic
expenditure. The loan with interest would therefore only be an
actual advance of a supplement of energy normally available at a
later date. That which gives credit and renders you creditworthy, is,
it will then he said, your capacity for prolonged inhibition. What the
lender puts money on (to which he will in fact constrain you), is
your second degree negativity, the negation of the negation, the
force of having to make your return in semen. But, still according
to Hegel, there is no risk of bad infnity in the matter; on the
contrary, fertility of the reserve and sublation. If the money
merchant lends you lOO units today and deducts from you 15 units
of value over I years, it is only because he has the power to anticipate
a formation of capital (of reserved energy) which will not fail to
take place on the crossing-point that you are. The Marxist theory of
the origin of surplus-value is no different from this: if labour-force
can be the source of a supplement, it is because it can cost its
Capital 221
proprietor, the worker, less energy than it gives to its buyer, the
boss. And why then, if only the frst is capable of inhibiting, at least
for a time, its 'unproductive' energetic expenditure (its consump
tion and the rest ... ), and the second of activating, also for a time,
the productive expenditure of the frst? Isn't all that is gained in the
time and the place of production abstracted from the place and time
of 'life', thanks to a terrible inhibition? And if it can be shown that
this is not only the act of masters, but must also be that desired by the
proletarians, as Reich sometimes does (and as we ourselves some
times do), this is no great discovery in the eyes of Hegelianism, for
the question is not of knowing who represses, but how it (ra) can
inhibit itself.
The weakness of such an analysis is glaringly apparent: if all
interest is only al advance from an energetic remainder yet to come,
obtained by inhibition, and if one supposes a closed system of
energies, capital would not be able to grow at all, but would simply
allow, through the game of interest and profit, energetic quantities,
shared out at frst by chance or on an equal basis il an imaginary
primitive community, to pass into the hands of the creditors, with
the total quantity of the potential system not increasing at all. I f the
supplement to be put into circulation is already there in some way, if
it is enough to postpone the fulflment of desire to free new
energetic resources, then it is because these latter are due only to a
saling, whether this is through constraint or spontaneous. Aristotle's
tradesman, for example, let's call him (0), taking more from his
buyer (B) than he himself gave to his seller (S), subsequently
constrains the frst to reduce his purchases (that is his participation in
economic circuits) in order to be able to reestablish the equilibrium
(supposedly constant) of his income and his outgoings. Unless (B)
in his turn had no opportunity to act like the tradesman (0), and to
recover, as a seller this time, from a potential buyer, a part or all of
the energies which he had lost to his previous seller (0). But, if the
system is closed, the buyer in question is none other (upon
completion) than (S), who has already gained his interest in the frst
transaction with the tradesman (0), so that (B), raising an energetic
supplement from (S), will come to compensate that which (S) had
made from (0), and the system will be in equilibrium, no doubt, but
not in expansion.
Either the saving really is a saving, which implies the thesis of
inhibition, on condition that one supplements it with that of a fnite
222 Libidinal E[onomy
quantity of libidinal wealth; or, under the name of saving, It IS 111
reality a matter of the introduction of new quantities of energy into
the system, but the important thing is that when the system is not
isolated, it fnds its supplement of wealth, not by internal inhibition,
but by external expansion, by the seizure of 'exteral' energetic
sources. In this second hypothcsis, the jouissancl', or, better put, the
intensity, would not be lodged on a mysterious feedback [boucle] by
which, just before ejaculation, the fngers of the left hand come to
press on the seminal duct in order that thc spcrm in it make a painful
about-turn; or at least it would not be lodged exclusively there,
unless one could affrm that this localization has no part in the
intensifcation. But it would indeed be more essential to recognize in
this, above all, the fact of the irritation that the 'unnatural' erotics or
chrematistics arouses in the deposits of energy initially placed in the
shelter of the system: strata of Yin dormant in the receptacles of
femininity, that come to arouse the works of masculine erotics;
masses of natural energies (coal, water, petrol, nuclear) or human
energies (artisans, unemployed farlllers), which lie dormant in the
finges of capital and which the latter comes to seizc and exploit. So
the intensities of which capitalism is capable are not cxclusively
associated with inhibition and reservation, but they necessarily are
with corquest and agitation.
It is in sum a naIvety or a perfdy to believc that, because it
rebounds on itself and is postponed, desire opens the space of a
reserve on which it is quite at liberty to draw drafts on condition that
it reconstitute this reserve in proportion to the repayments (inter
csts). If desire is, as Hegel thought, purely destructive, why would
the increase of its negative potential [uissance 1 reverse the nature of
its effects? What then is inhibited in the pulsional movement to give
rise to the mock-instance of Ego-History-Capital? Is this the
destructive force, isn't this its force and nothing besides, its
strength? What is withdrawn from thc libido and fattened onto the
instance? How could the same force going towards its 'end', to its
cxpansion, be annihilating, destructive, bad, and become good by
the fact that it makes an about-turn, that it returns to itself and takes
itself as its object, that it comes to a halt and that it is in love with
itself, that it becomes refexive and tautological? If you accept this
idea of the return institutive of the realist instance, then you inherit
with it all of Hegel's Platonism, hence his Christianity, his nihilism.
For if there is nihilism, it is time to say so, it is certainly not in the
Capital 223
expansi ve force [uissance] of desire, which, far from destroying
the poles between which one supposes it stretched, never ceases to
invent pieces of the patchwork by being ephemerally invested in
them. No, the nihilism is entirely in the idea that the good, the
serious and the true, constitute the turning-back, the Riekkehr, and
the institution of the Potenz; in the idea that inhibition changes the
nature and the range of the forces subj ected to it, and changes them
for the better. All political economy constructed on this basis will be
identical to the philosophies of consciousness, resting on the sinister
' force [uissance] of the negative' . But the question of capital is that
of knowing how desire as affrmative force becomes reserve and
The Reproductive Usc of Credit 1oney
The advance of capital money is not simply an early putting into
circulation of energetic reserves to be subsequently restored by
saving, it dissimulates t wo almost incompatible libidinal functions,
one of increased accumulation, the other of looting; but both
functions are of conquest , capture and appropriation of unprece
dented pieces of the patchwork. It is because these two functions are
dissimulated together in credit money that it is impossible to make
the meaning of the two zeros overlap with that of the two moneys,
as if one said, for exampl e, that the zero of the central annulment ,
of commercial concentration, corresponds t o account money and
payment money (and t he regulative power of the cycles) , and that
credit money, for its part, involves the other zero, which, in the
form of an advance (of what?) , is thrown onto the same circuit of
exchanges, and would enable the circuit' s range to be extended. In
fact, credit money involves both the accountancy zero and the
creditor zero; and it is only in the event of unique, unforeseeable
disturbances - ' crises' , which are like hysterical attacks - that two
uses of credit become discernible, one of reproduction and the other
of jealousy. I t must be understood that this i s not a matter of two
moneys and two functions, but of two moneys and three functions:
the regulative zero not only affects the exchanges in a homeostatic
system, it is still present in this advance of capital which enables
increased reproduction; in other words, credit money must also be
thought of as a payment money regulating the growth of a regi me;
and fnally this same credit money may on the contrary turn out to be
224 Lihidinal ECOIOI
a major deregulator of all capitalist circuits. Two moneys then: one
of payment, the other of credit; and three functions: homeostasis,
dynamic equilibrium, disequilibrium.
Aristotle has said all there is to say about payment money. But
what happens whCll this payment takes place in a growth regime?
This question is known by Marxists under the name of the
realization of surplus-value. If there is growth, it is because a
supplemCllt of energy (of whatever nature this is, but always in
commodity form) is introduced into the system with every cycle.
But without becoming unsettled, how can a system regulated by the
single axiom of the virtual balancing out of the terms circulating
within it (or, if you like, of their annulment, always possible in
principle, in a general accountancy) introduce new terms (com
modities) which would not have their monetary counterpart, into its
core? A familiar question for economists.
Here, libidinals, is what our imagination suggests to us: in the frst
place, reverse the whole problem, that is to say, don't start with
production and profIt, but with the bank and interest; understand
that if the entrepreneur can effectively capture (and subsequently
put into circulation as commodities) fragments of hitherto
untouched energetic zones, it is because he is quite free to spend
before earing (buying the means of this capture before selling
what it produces); understand that it is unimportant, from our point
of view, whether he addresses himself rather to bank fnancing or to
selffinancing, since the only question for the system is: how can the
meaNS of the enterprise be purchased when only the sale of products
will be able to furnish it with the monetary equivalent?
. 1 1 r l' 1 . ' .
1" . . 1 1
1 prOblem or cycl1cal, repenuve ume: newt IS sunpJ y lJle
premature constitution, in the form of means which allows one to
transact, of the wealth which will only be gi ven after the event as the
products of the enterprise. This function of credit money must not
be confused with that suggested by Keynes in the General Theor
. . . Keynes was aiming at a system whose means of production,
already given, fell into disuse only after the crisis of the 1930s. His
project then was to get things going again. But we ask ourselves
how, in a period of expansion, the conquest and putting into
circulation of new energetic units can take place: that is, the creation
of capital. Now it cannot take place without passing through the
form of money, and without putting this to a specifc lSC, which
would be a sort of preduplication [preduplication] or preplication
Capital 225
[rep/ication] of the system by itself The lender advances the
borrower something that neither of them, nor anyone else in the
system, can have, ex hyothesi, that is, a supplement of means. This
supplement will be put into the system only if the enterprise
succeeds, and by virtue of this. Credit is the advance of wealth
which does not exist, made in order that it come to exist.
The system gives itself an advance, this advance is an advance oj
nothing if we think in terms of commodities; it is just an advance,
that is, a credit of time. But a credit of time, at the level of the
system, has no specifable meaning: it could have one only if one
admits the existence of a cosmic clock, the hours of which would be
commensurable with the time of the system. This standard may
have a significance when the advance is, for example, that which a
landowner makes in seed [semence] to his tenant, because it has to be
evaluated on the basis of the following year's produce, and because
the annual cycle is not determined by the system of agricultural
production itself, but by that of the seasons, which is an indepen
dent clock. But such is not the case with a developed so-called
secondary or tertiary production, which is barely rooted in cosmic
time at all. Here the credit of time is only a process of expansive
regulation, an arbitrary act by which a power to include new
energies in the system is delivered. The capacity to deliver such
powers constitutes the power of all powers.
Nevertheless, it is itself subordinated to the condition of produc
tion; the creditor says to his debtor: here is a sum M, with it you will
produce C, these are the terms that enter into the system and of
course (since M will already have been distributed) fnd their
fnancial equivalent there. It is necessary to produce. This is why the
properties of these credits are quite specifc: middle- or long-term,
investment constraints, interest rates for loans linked to the average
rates of proft. We are far indeed from the kapelikon, where the loan
takes place for a very short term, or even at sight, where interest
rates appear extremely unstable, and where there exists no obliga
tion to produce imposed by the lender on the borrower. To produce
means here, specifcally, to extend reproduction, to make capital pass
into intact energetic regions, to transform 'objects', which were not
previously there, into commodities; enterprise.
It is therefore an advance of nothing, but not for nothing. This
supplement of energy granted under the form of a loan of money
must be annulled or realized (whatever you like, it's all the same
226 Libidinal Economy
here) in the form of supplementary commodities. It is in this way
that Olle sees that credit money used in this (productive) manner
continues to operate as payment money, as the allllulatory zero, as an
instance of reproduction: ill short, it is an increased reproduction,
the unit of reference is not constant, but 01 the increase. Insofar as
this usc is limited by (re)production, the credit contains no
dangerous infnity, in the sense that Aristotle feared. Currency,
here, operates basically onl y as a sigll or something else, a sign of
industrial or commercial invested capital. It is not its own end nor its
own limit: these latter arc new commodities which will be
exchanged against it at the end of the cycle. The unreality of the
advance is therefore temporary (provisional), it will be exchanged
for the proper 'reality' of commodities. Of course, these arc in turn
only means, and it is quite certain that for capital there are only
means, means of reproducing itself while growing. But it is
precisely this function of postponement, of the sign, which endows
anything whatever with the status of reality in the system. The
nothing advanced by the ballk to the entrepreneur is a reality because
it will be exchanged for commodities. By making this advance of
nothing, credit money in sum docs nothing more than complete the
nature of the sign in the system, which is nothing other than to refer
endlessly to other signs.
As for the temporality at work in this advance, it is the time of
reproduction, which is, like the time of structures, basically
atemporal. Of course, the quantity of elements put to work in the
system is not constant, and in consequence one need not fnd all their
possible combinations identical to each other from one cycle to
another. It is of a rigorously cyclical history that B. Russell can write
that 'the fnal state is numerically identical to the previous one', that
'we cannot affrm that this state occurs twice, for that implies a
chronological system', and that he ought rather to express this
history in the following way: 'Let's consider the set of all
circumstanes contemporaneous with a determinate circumstance; in
certain cases, the whole set precedes itself' 1 \ The history of
growing capital is only analogous to itself the new commodities
introduced at the time of the cycle n + 1 are to the money advanced
as those of the cycle I are to the money then in circulation. Credit in
its (re)productive usage rests on this analogy: the future it opens up
is no different from the past. The one and the other are identical in
principle, this is why they are reversible, and this is how the creditor
can buy his future.
The Speculatite Use 0 Credit Money: 1921
There are no 'speculators', bad people perpetrating their crimes
behind the backs of the honest managers of capital. Capital money
is at every moment subject to a use which is strange and unexpected
only if one insists with the economists on seeing only the reproduc
tive function of capital. But there is mercantilism. Marx, in order to
establish the general formula of capital, is frst obliged to proceed to
the analysis of currency and to imagine the mercantilist system as an
indispensable stage in the formation of capital proper. Mercantilism
is in fact constitutive of capitalism, but it is not a formative 'stage'
of this latter; lodged in reproduction and instantiated on its very
condition, currency form, it is a potential of intensities. Mercantil
ism is not a system, at the very most it would be an anti-system,
incapable as it is of persisting since it entails the death of the body it
exploits through exhaustion. Rather it is a potentiality of conquest
by plunder and dissipation, probably always present in economic
organizations, but whose importance in terms of its effects is drawn
from how much jealousy (which it is) is exerted on currency, an
indispensable moment in the metamorphoses of capital, and so, in
consequence, it can seriously alter the circulation of this latter. For
speculation is the mercantilism in capitalism; it pursues in capital
money the same sort of intensity that Colbert and Louis XIV might
draw from metallic money. It is useless to want to induce 'thrusts of
speculative fever', as the historians and the economists say, starting
from the general state of the economy. One could imagine that it is
when the incitement to invest becomes insuffcient that capital
enters onto the route where the intended interest rates are much
higher than in production. But this reasonable description com
pletely ignores the libidinal difference that this displacement of
capitals implies. The Stock Exchange is not a better investment then;
it is not an investment at all, it is a battlefeld and a feld of conquest
by means of buying and selling. The very sophisticated currency
traded here is not concerned with producing, but with taking.
If indeed there are destructive forces at play in history, it is not, or
not necessarily, those that produce war. 20 The production of war is a
production of war, it is still a production. But destruction is
dissimulated in the most peaceful production, death in the
accumulation of wealth. We will not even say that it is the destiny of
capital to lead, through its process of accumulation, to the ruin of
22H I.ihidinall{(JfloIllY
society. That is not certain, this dialectic is still religious in the hope
for or the fear of the catastrophe that it promises. Just as the
pulsions of death arc dissimulated in those of life, the destructive
forces are not discerible from those of production. And, just as the
lytic or lethal function belongs to no particular pulsional instance,
olle could not even say that speculation is deadly and production
erotic; the contrary is no less verifable. And the important thing is
not even to be awestruck by this ambivalence; it is rather to pinpoint
how jOlliss(((' or intensity slides from reproduction towards
What is mercantilism other than a politics of the kapdikoll elevated
to the level of the State? The infnity of a chrematistic of currency,
so fcared by Aristotle, is not and cannot be a property of the
reproductive use of capital, which is limited by the zero of
annull11lt. The infnity of capitalist growth contains nothing
fearful or mortal since it is regulated in principle on a coml11odity
standard. And if it happens that this standard docs not regulate it, it
is particularly due to mercantilism, due to a usc of capital of which
olle will indeed be able to say that it is Ilot ' really capitalist', because
olle has the image of a capital which would be essentially a mode of
(re)production, but which it certainly is if the looting of wealth goes
as far as to put the survival of the 'social' body in jeopardy (as
reproduction requires) and becomes a part of the impulsions active
in the system, and perhaps indispensable. In scventeenth- and
eighteenth-century mercantilism, one produced in order to sell and
one sold in order to incrcasc thc quantity of currcncy. Even there, it
is nothing if not vcry capitalist; but what is less so is this: this
4uJntity of currency is, substantially, the wealth which one aims to
accumulate (and to spend).
Such is cxccss, the limitless: it is not capital that one accumulates,
something that would be put back into circulation according to the
rules of cycles and annulments. Onc accumulates quantities of
metals that form the treasure and glory of war; in so doing, one
takes them out of thc cycles and the mcasurc of exchangcs, and one
blocks what assures reproduction in principle. 'Bad' infnity comes
from this looting, which returns nothing of what it takes, which can
lead only to the exhaustion of the reproductive body. Consumptive
hoarding creating between one part and the other of this 'body' a
morc and more overpowering inequality of wcalth: creating
bctwcen one piece and the other of the libidinal patchwork a more
Capital 229
and more hateful jealousy with regard to intensities. If Aristotle's
infnity is deadly for him, it is due to the fact that this body exploited
hy mercantilism is fnite, and that a process of increasing disparity
between the parts of the body must make this latter explode: the
koinonia cannot support a heavy difference of potential between its
Take the crisis of 1929, one sees the mercantilist machine there on
a large scale. Should the powerful impulsions of looting be at work
from one end to the other, should the excess of what is without a
counterpart come to light, there is the event, there its affrmativity.
The same goes for speculation on the currency markets, a very
similar event, which today troubles the workings of global capital
ism. For this latter, the givcns are not established. The crisis of '29
by contrast is today a kind of hugc microscope to cast an eye on
capital's libido. Here the pulsional duplicity of the use of currency is
easily brought out: investment, speculation; and of time: iterative,
singular; and of currency itself: means, treasure; and so of intensity:
accumulation by postponement, dissipation. The two incandes
cences are co-present, indiscernible except by means of their
effects, each counting in different regions, the same capital
currency in two heterogeneous and undecidable space-times, set side
by side, but in the same place: nebetz. It is not because the fnctioning
of reproductive capital has become impossible or diffcult that its
speculative functioning is set to work: what is such an impossibility?
When is the reproduction of a system not possible? To say this is to
attempt to turn tragic on the cheap, and to inscribe in a dialectical
destiny what was and is a singular episode, an event: if this proves
anything, it is the duplicity oj economic signs, even the most abstract,
and, it seems, the most innocent in the economist's eyes. The crisis
of '29 attests that the alleged social 'body' - in fact, millions of rags
of the patchwork unifed in principle under the capitalist, paranoiac
law of reproduction - can fall apart, be taken to pieces, and go to
pulp for a long time (right up until 19505, that is a quarter century
counted on the clock of Weltgeschichte), and atrociously (millions and
millions of deaths, millions of ruins), without any other 'reason'
than the frenzied, jealous impulsions which, since the First World
War, never cease to cultivate the use of capital in the sense of
Aristotle's feared chrematistic.
After 1914, the so-called world market, that is the 'body' that
capitalism is continually trying to give itself, was far from its
230 Libidinal Ecolomy
orgaJllc ideal. The imbalance of trade bctween Europc and the
United States is deep: $11 ,(JOO million tradc surplus for the United
States in 1922. Here crcdit money comes to operate in principle in its
reproductive function: loans and credits are accordcd by America,
during the war, to the allied States, to protect the foreign value of
their currency: thcse dollars permit them to redeem their own
devalued currency, the sale of which is everywhere negotiated by
tbe Markets, against dollars or gold; and after the war, to the States
stemming from the central Empircs, to sustain national currencies
hit by infation: the destruction of Central Europe's means of
reproduction leads these states to multiply monetary signs in order
to face up to their payments and to initiate recovery. For their part,
the European enterpriscs utilize the credit facilities offered them by
American industrial or commercial societies in order to make their
purchases in tbe United States.
What happens then in 19217 A sort of crisis which anticipates in
certain aspects that of '29. American lenders begin to ofer their
European clients' bills of exchange at a discount which the Federal
Reserve System [FRS], the issuing institution, then buys; it must
therefore cede paper money in exchange for the discounted bills.
Hence from June 1918 to December 1920 the value of the
commercial portfolio of the Federal Reserve System rises from
$435 to $1578 million. In parallel, the percentage of gold reserves
falls; at the start of 192 J, it is at 42.4 per cent, when the legal
minimum is then 40 per cent.21 There is a risk of European infation
spreading to the United States. The FRS falls back to 659 in
December 1921, and 294 in June 1922. Hence a simple measure of
the slabiliza[ion of the dollar.
But it suffices to throw the distribution of forces on the 'body' of
capital off balance once more, and seriously. The restriction of
trade credit brings with it (look, causes and effects!) a fall in the
volume of American exports and ultimately of world prices, which
in turn discourages all medium- or long-term investment. Infation
will take the familiar turn in Europe: the gold mark counts for 17
paper marks in Deccmbcr 1920, 46 in Decembcr 1921, 1778 in
Dccember 1922, 45,000 inJune 1923, 1 million in August 1923.
Is there something in this we need to explain? This is not the
libidinal economist's business. Let's highlight two important things:
the frst is that the United States fnds itself in thc position of having
exhausted the wealth of a part of Europe (ccntre and east), which
Capital 231
speeds to its organic death for want of being able to instantiate its
exchanges on a stable unit of reference, gold or the dollar (which in
this period was itself indexed on gold) . Keynes described, like a true
libidinalist, what economists would hypocritically call ' velocity of
circulation': 'In Moscow the unwillingness to hold money except
for the shortest possible time reached at one period a fantastic
intensity. If a grocer sol d a pound of cheese, he ran off with the
roubles as fast as his legs could carry him to the Central Market to
replenish his stocks by changing them into cheese again, lest they
lost their value before he got there . . . '22 Schacht makes the point
in this regard that the German word for monetary value, that is, the
title or grade of a currency as a standard (for example, in gold), is
Wihrung, wihren signifying ' to last ' . And J. Nere observes : ' The
disappearance of duration upsets men' s brains and nerves. '23
To tell the truth, the Muscovite grocer is, in his disturbed state, in
search of a permanent rule, which is cheese: the perishability of this
is less great than that of paper money. What is fascinating in this
1921 * crisis is that one then enters another, vertiginous time, made
of as many times as there are exchanges, hence just like the time of our
labyrinth. It is a time of fight where, at the time of each transaction,
the exchangists, whose paper money expires, run to get rid of it, not
so as to be able to tackle a subsequent transaction in the same,
improved position, that of the seller, who is on the contrary cursed,
but in the hope of constituting a stock (of cheeses) and of
reestablishing a unit of reference independent of currency which
would be valid as a good currency. Every encounter of the
cheesemonger with roubles must be imagined as an unbearable event
which he fees, to imagine that his fight never fails to bring him into
contact with still more notes along the way, more and more notes.
And from one fight to another, there is no continuity. From one
heap of notes to the other, there is no identity, not even simple
quantitative diference. Every 'exchange' becomes an event, opens
up a type of adventure, where death is the stake.
It is not only the power of credit that, in principle, is possessed by
the self-abolishing currency i n these labyrinths, it is also its power
of dis charge. For the fi ght i n the face of money reminds us, by the
frightening restriction of time limits, that the latter power is itself a
'The date Lyotard gives here is 1929. However, the Moscow grocer is an example
used by Keynes in his 1923 Treatise on Malley, in the context of a discllssion of recent
economic crises. I have accordingly amended the text to read '\921'. - tl
232 Lihidinal }COl1omy
Clse of the tC)fmer: the paying buyer acts only to give the beneficiary
a credit valid over general wealth, that is, over a third party. The
increase in the discount rate in Washington produces this vertigo in
Moscow, the reversal ofM-C-M into C-M-C, a grocer who wants
only cheese and not money, and who therefore no longer invests the
credit and credit time involved in paper money. Mortal stasis on a
partial organ of the trading body.
One elll imagine the equivalent of this disorder in the fldd of
language: the amnesia of a micro/exis, without going any further;
this is a semantic network guaranteeing a meaning standard
thoughout a multiplicity of statements. For example, the lexis of
the names of colours; Gelb and Goldstein describe it as the amnesia
that Cassirer and Merleau-Ponty comment on24 The latter writes:
'We can obtain an experience of this type [amnesiac] by having
before us a heap of samples in a passive attitude of perception: the
identical colours assemble thelllselves under our gaze, but merely
similar colours form only uncertain relations amongst themselves.'
And Gelb and Goldstein: 'The heap appears unstable, it moves, we
noticc incessant changc, a sort of struggle betwcen several possible
groupings of colours according to differcnt points of view.'
Cassirer comments: there is no longer, for the amllesiac, one single
language of colours, but several languages, as many as there are
chromatic experiences, 'each sensible impression is affected by a
"vector of meaning", but these vectors no longer have a communal
direction, they are no longer orientated towards principal determi
nate centres, they are much more divergent than is the case in the
normal person'. No longer a circle, the colour-wheel; but many
small circles, none of which communicates with the other.
The second thing to note: there is perhaps the pain of an
incomplete amnesia there, retaining the trace of a unitary exigency,
just like that of the Russian cheese monger. One might think that one
was reading, in these protocols of experience, the effects of
Colbert's politics on his 'clients'. For this same vertigo, under the
name of infation, necessarily affects parts of the 'body' of wealth
which had been deprived of gold, even if very indirectly (in 1921,
through the intermediary of the dollar). Gold amnesia. It is because
the dollar defends itself, that is to say treats itself as wealth, that it
condemns Central Europe to the desert of labyrinths.
The FRS of course, is not Louis XIV, the gold supply of Fort
Knox is not principally intended to f1ance court feasts, and the
Capital 233
measure of the increase of discount rates is not an open act of
belligerence, but also a general safeguard: in short, we are well
within capitalism, not in state mercantilist practice. Nevertheless,
we can see this in it, the hypothesis of all mercantilism: that the
wealth which is displaced towards the American banks was with
drawn from European capital, that the quantity of currency
circulating in the West is a fnite quantity, and therefore that the
accumulation of signs of credit (European bills of exchange) on one
pole of the capitalist 'body' plunges all that belongs to the other pole
into the immoderation so feared by Aristotle: economic amnesia,
a-metry lametrie], anomie. And this position of immoderation,
which we fnd experienced by Central Europe of 1921, which will
be affrmed by American capital in the years from 1925 to 1929;
admit that it has, formally, a direct similiarity with the passage of
infuxes on the pieces of the libidinal patchwork, that it manifests all
the characteristics of the pulsional 'disorder' aicting the body of
reproduction: the running Muscovite cheesemonger is an dfect of
partial pulsional motion.
The Speculative Usc of Credit Money: 1929
If you now want to sec it positively, look at the New York Stock
Exchange, not only on 24 and 29 October 1929, but from 1924,
when stabilization follows the crisis of 1921 throughout the West.
There remains in the United States an important mass of hot money;
a furry of real-estate speculation on Florida land turns out to be a
fasco in 1925-6; the signs of wealth will follow two principal
routes: they will serve as substitutes for the economics and working
capital of Austrian, German, and even English companies,25 being
lent on the short term; they will serve to sustain speculation on the
transferable values on Wall Street, there again in the form of short
term loans, even call loam. At the start of 1925, the discount rate, as
offered by the (Berlin) Reichsbank, for example, is at 10 per cent,
that of the Federal Bank of New York at 3 per cent: the investments,
made in Europe at these rates, especially when they are short-term,
can be said to be 'speculative', although they may also be reproduc
tive. As for those which, on Wall Street, come to finance purchases
of American values at below-par rating since the war, for instance,
the railways or the public services (in full recession), their destina
tion demonstrates to Wall Street alone that they aim at rapid gains in
234 Libiliral Economy
fiduciary capital, and not at an interest proportionate to the industrial
proft that one could expect from these 'unhealthy' enterprises.
The second trait of these investments, then: at first they bear not
on the (re)productive value of actions or obligations, but only on the
possibilities of net proft that they offer on the Stock Market; the
securities involved arc rwt takC as signs (of the means of produc
tion), but as thillgs that will be granted a plus- or minus-value only by
the movemcnts of exchange to which they arc submitted. There is a
givcn quantity of negotiable securities in the Stock Market; a rush of
buying on a sccurity is enough to enhance its value insofar as the
purchasers are perceived as a proft-making minority which cannot but
inspire jealousy; jealousy ends as soon as the tendency is reversed, it
gives way to reserve, then to liquidation. What they call the
'psychological factors' of the play of the market consists in this
strangc 'perversion' (but dare we employ this word?) of the rdation
to capital: securitics become like gold, to gain gold by the jealous
game alonc. And when we say jealousy, we don't only mean that
bcrween subjects, proprietary jealousy; but amongst all libido, this
jealousy that parts of the great film demonstrate for those invested
with intensity, direct pulsional jealousy, without the mediation of a
proprietary limit, making the masses of capital foating on the body
of market values incapable of equitable distribution, in parity; rather
they are ceaselessly displaced on it, producing the greatest disparities
in potential. This is indeed mercantilism and the kapclikoll once
again, the excess inevitably associated with the .nite quantity (the
sum of negotiable securities).
And the second characteristic: purchases of real-estate values on
WaH Street from 1925 to 1929 take place, to a great extent, 'in the
margins', with money borrowed on sight (call loalls); for the lender
then, it is a matter of a highly fexible investment, repayable on
demand. The interest rate for these call l(ans in New York climbs
from 3.32 in January 1925 up to 9. 41 in July 1929; one can only
compare it with the rates charged in Europe 'to attract' American
capital. But here the period of the immobilization of loaned capital
is still less. I imagine that a broker has been given a 'tip', and so
happens to make a demand for a call loan from some representative
of a bank (we will see that it is not even that), who will hand him a
promissory note there and then, after receiving the promise that, if
the operation planned by the broker is profitable, its fruits will be
shared out between them in a certain proportion. Credit money
Capital 235
circulates here according to a time which is not that of productive
capital: there is no longer a natural cycle, nor anything comparable.
There is no longer any cycle at all, only upward and downward
trends and their reversals, which, in a turbulent period, are
This call-loan credit focusing on very short-term purchases
implies maximal displaceability. This is no longer the cheesemonger
chasing cheese by means of roubles, but the lender chasing money
by means of securities. This displaceability is once again a charac
teristic of the kapelikon: imagine that the tradesman makes not one,
but two or ten M-C-M operations during his day. This adds nothing
to the productive capacity of his city, certainly; it is a looting of
time, or rather it is a time of looting, where the rapidity of
displacement is indispensable because it guarantees that one will be
the first in on the deal, on lands when one is a nomad of the steppes,
on gold when one is the Great King, on securities when one is a great
broker. The same temporal vertigo, the same labyrinths, as those
into which galloping infation plunges Central Europe in 1921. It is a
passionate time, a time of dissipations.
For, even if the securities traders do not hold sumptuous feasts,
they are necessarily affected by this strange situation, which is that
of the nomad looter: that the simple conquest of a mass of actions
necessarily provokes its devaluation on completion, just as the
conquest of a territory by the cavaliers immediately implies that
they will have to abandon it, and thus delay its exhaustion. Things
conquered in this way, looted, are already dead, and must be rejected
as quickly as possible. It is in this sense that every conquest is a fight
forward, towards other things not yet devalued and nevertheless
already devalued since they are about to be seized. It is in this jealous
way that the times of the labyrinth are oblivious of one another; and
each to its own in matters of fre and ashes.
But this is not all. Another, apparently 'technical' characteristic of
transferable speculation on Wall Street in this period clearly shows
the dissimulated, undecidable character of a suddenly intensely
jealous use of capital money. The loans granted the brokers are not
mainly made by the banks, they come principally from non
banking origins. For example, on 31 December 1924, of the $2230
million lent to brokers, only $550 million did not come from the
banks. But on 31 December 1927, the numbers Jre respectively 4430
and 1830; 31 December 1928, 6440 and 3885 (more than half; and,
Libidillal EWfomy
011 4 October 1 (29, 8525 and 6440 (that is , about three-quarters non
bank loans2(,). As J. Ncrc shows, fnds not coming from the banks
(Ie from tie working capital ofindustrial alld wmmcrcial societies. This
means that the capital 'normally' invested in its own reproduction
through the intermediary of commodities, 'plays' here at being lent
at the highest price in order to be exchanged against securities , even
though this may involve their liquidation at any moment, at the
highest interest rate. So it is not enough to say that there arc evil
speculators , there is a compulsion to speculate which can affect even
the capital earmarked for reproduction; they arc the same mcn,
company heads, presidents of industrial and commercial societies
who love the postponed and the deferred and who may prefer them
to the pleasures gained from this mercantilism in the second or third
There, as Ncrc says brilliantly, is the question posed by the crisis
of 1 929: not to ascertain why therc had been speculation on the Stock
Market; there has always been speculation, the economist will
answer; we would add: it is a libidinal instantiation, no more docs it
accept a ' because' than industrial capitalism itself (which is no less
mysterious, isn' t this true?). ' The real diffculty comes from the
extent of speculation on credit - which is not therefore directly
supplied by surplus revenues. The question is of knowing how it
happens that this speculation on the Stock Market, eminently risky,
involved such a degree of working capital from businesses, and
compromised the normal mechanisms of short term credit and
payments. ' And J. Nerc concludes: 'There is a lack of basic
information to answer this. '27
There is in [del 110 response to the question of a libidinal
displacement of inscription. That intensity, that force is then
instantiated in the securities trade and considered as exchangeable
things, rather than in the production of consumable commodities, is
no more explicable than the fact that the libido lodged in the genital
zone moves towards the anus or the ear. Call it regression if it makes
you any happier. The eroticization (in this banal sense) of the Stock
Market is not to be explained, but taken note of The proportions
that it attains in 1929 permit only affrmation: this is one manner in
which force (uissance) may come to be intensifed in capitalism and
on the part of capitalists - although this dispositif could function only
in the margins, and even at the price, in the so-called 'normal'
modality, of reproduction and postponement. This example is
Capital 237
enough for us to think that we have not begun to describe the libidinal
economy of capital . These few pages were only a minuscule
contribution to this description.
Here again you might say: these pages show an ambivalence in the
use of credit money, there is a credit which inspires confdence and a
credit which does not inspire confdence, a credit which acts
according to the time of advances and a ' credit' which acts outside
the cycle, in the blow by blow of speculative labyrinths. Don' t think
this. What is important is not this ambivalence, i . e. one and the same
investment somehow both reproductive and speculative; the impor
tant thing is that two indiscernible instantiations are exposed to
intensities, and that voluptuousness may vascillate unpredictably
between them. Don' t replace the optimistic dialectic of the one and
the pessimistic dialectic of the other (Little Girl Marx, Mattick) with
the open secret of ambivalence. Ambivalence is the co-presence of
vectors of opposed meanings in one and the same space-time. But
the duplicity of this capitalist credit is the co-presence (but present to
what, to whom?) of tensors in signs and signs in tensors. But signs
and tensors do not belong to the same space-time: signs arise by
definition from the system in which they are transformable
(commutable, translatable, exchangeable) ; each tensor opens up its
ephemeral time and its l abyrinthine evanescent space.
It must be clearly understood that the jealous hypothesis of afnite
quantity of wealth, made by every mercantilism (all speculation) , is
constitutive of the same labyrinths of which we speak. Every
intensity is a fight to death, that is to say to exhaustion, in which
energy is spent at the height of its force, hence exploiting every
reserve, destroying every organized body: the nomads of great
invasions, Louis XIV, the brokers of 1 929. Should the signs be
exchanged between the former and the latter, should land be
exchanged for transferable stocks, nothing would change as regards
the phantasy of such a ' finitude' , and the reality of its cruelty. Signs
are not taken here as substitutes following truly sedentary habits of
thought (structuralist) , they are displaceable masses of energy. The
nomad' s horse is only the earth made more mobile. When they
moved from the earth to the horse - which is neither an instrument
nor a weapon, but a more important thing: the vehicle - when they
moved from the horse to the bill of exchange, and from this to the
call loan, they moved closer all the time towards the greatest possible
displaceability. Towards a time and a space less and less ' global ' ,
238 Li bidinal Economy
cos mic, more and more libidinal , l abyrinthine, ephemeral . I s there a
space-time of speculation which coul d be pl otted out? A geography
and a history of the Stock Market? On the contrary, in putting these
things into circul ation, there i s always something savage which puts
the space-time of reproducti on, i . e. reproducible space-time, in
Another, recent , exampl e. Saudi Arabi a, Kuwai t, Abu Dhabi ,
Qatar and Libya have a total population of (. S mi l l i on inhabi tants.
Afer the rise i n petrol pri ces which they i mposed 011 thei r European
buyers in 1 973, they pocketed in total around $45 million in 1 974.
Now all of Europe, the France of the Great Ki ng included, assumes
the character of a needy client and a victi m. For, as the mercantilists
so clearly understood, there i s indeed very little that they can sell in
retur to their petrol masters , seeing that these latter havc tl O need
whatever it i s: even all the Arab petrol-selling countries put together
(and not only the fve we have mentioned) would be unable to
absorb more than $20 million worth of annual i mports . Let us add
that their surplus exports are payabl e ill dollars, just as Colbert
demanded pr